Phoenix Jones's kinda sorta ended his controversial fundraising campaign to finance the construction of his elaborate new crime-fighting costume today. The self-proclaimed superhero fell considerably short of his $10,000 goal, but he still plans to forge ahead with construction of his outfit, which according to his estimate, will cost a whopping $198,000 to create. Jones' rivals in the Social Villains Alliance, meanwhile, are staging a counter-fundraiser to benefit the Seattle Police Foundation.
Three days after our story was published, Jones (aka Ben Fodor) issued an apology of sorts on his personal blog. He wrote that "the suit upgrade fundraising campaign has lost its positive energy" and announced that he would stop "active solicitations for donations" and halt the fundraiser entirely by August 1. Jones also claimed to be the victim of "a coordinated campaign of bullying and harassment," and vowed to continue doing his thing.
In a subsequent blog post, Jones offered a "price layout from head to toe" of his new getup. The highlights include:
To put the $250,000 figure in perspective, a new Maserati GranTurismo sports car sells for $118,900. Jones could also buy a Russian T-55 Battle Tank for a mere $85,000. The average Batmobile only set Bruce Wayne back roughly $214,700.
Jones responded to an email inquiring about the suit fundraiser with the phone number of his L.A.-based publicist Peter Tangen. Tangen says the $198,000 cost estimate is based on the value of the suit if it were to be sold commercially. Most of the materials have been donated, Tangen explains, and Jones needs just $10,000 to cover construction costs and other incidentals.
With $5,000 barely covering the cost of his cape, Tangen says Jones will continue to accept donations via a PayPal button on his blog, but will no longer promote the cause. Tangen says Jones will also provide a refund to any donor who requests one.
"If anybody in any way feels that they were not completely aware of, or understanding exactly what his intentions are, they have a complete money return option," Tangen says. "People have sort of donated to him to enhance his safety on the streets. As far as transparency goes, I've never spoken to him about the plans for that. I don't acutally know...I'm sure there's absolutely nothing going on here that's misleading to people."
The outlandish cost of the costume and the fundraising kerfuffle have provided substantial fodder for Jones' foes in the Rex Velvet-inspired Social Villains Alliance. Krystal Bishop, co-administrator of the Social Villains Alliance Facebook page, asks, "How do we know that the money donated will be used for his little super-suit?"
"There's no accountability," Bishop says, "no way to prove the money he is raising is actually going toward a suit. For all we know, it could go toward paying for his bills and he might eventually buy a suit."
In response to Jones' $10,000 fundraising goal, Bishop says the Social Villains Alliance will try to raise an equal amount for the Seattle Police Foundation. That organization was founded shortly after 9/11 "to assist the police department enhance relationships with the community, improve employee development, and assist in providing the latest in equipment and technology to ensure officer safety and enhance the service they provide to our community every day."
Bishop says the fundraiser will be held Wednesday, August 22 at a TBD location, and will feature standup comedy and perhaps live music. She notes that a Seattle Police Foundation employee will offer detailed accounting of how much money they raise, and how it will be spent.
"There are other options and community programs in our area that are suffering," Bishop says. "I'm a mom of two young kids. I work downtown for a non-profit. I know how much we could use that kind of money, and how many other organizations out there can use this."