When You Give To A Charity, Know Where Your Money Is Going

Yesterday BizPac Review posted an article about the Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc., a group of black New York State legislators who run a charity to provide scholarships for black and Latino youth.

The article reports:

The caucus of black New York state lawmakers run a charity whose stated mission is to empower “African American and Latino youth through education and leadership initiatives” by “providing opportunity to higher education” — but it hasn’t given a single scholarship to needy youth in years, according to a New York Post investigation.

The group collects money from companies like AT&T, the Real Estate Board of New York, Time Warner Cable, and CableVision, telling them in promotional materials that they are “changing lives, one scholarship at a time.”

The group — called the Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc.  — instead spent $500,000 on items like food, limousines, and rap music, the Post found.

The politicians refused to divulge the charity’s 2017 tax filing to the Post despite federal requirements that charities do so upon request.

The article provides some insight as to where the money collected goes:

State. Sen. Leroy Comrie of Queens, the group’s number two, refused to come out when Post reporter Isabel Vincent stopped by his office. All of the politicians mentioned are Democrats.

“The real purpose (of the charity) is to bring people to get over their apathy and out to Albany and get motivated,” the charity’s former chairman, Assemblyman Nick Perry of Brooklyn, previously said.

There has been no money used for scholarships in that past two years, the Post reported, citing sources. That’s even after the Albany Times-Union called outthe charity in January 2017 for meager spending in prior years.

The charity gave $36,000 of its $565,000 in revenue to scholarships in 2015. That year, it spent $85,000 on a concert with Eric Benet and Regina Belle, and $157,000 on food, according to the Times-Union’s analysis of its tax filings.

The group said that year it planned to double the amount of scholarships it gave, but it didn’t happen.

In 2017, its annual event featured the rap artist Big Daddy Kane.

Hopefully the Attorney General of the State of New York will decide that the spending habits of this charity are inappropriate and require this group to actually fund some scholarships. However, it’s New York, so I am not optimistic.

This Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone

On Friday, Investor’s Business Daily posted an editorial about the Clinton Foundation. The editorial deals with the drop in donations to the Foundation after Hillary Clinton lost her bid for the Presidency.

The editorial reports:

Controversy over the foundation erupted after Peter Schweizer’s 2015 book — “Clinton Cash” — suggested that the foundation served as a way for donors to curry favor with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

And, indeed, the multitude of connections that slowly turned out became hard to dismiss as coincidental. There was the fact that 85 of the 154 private interests who’d met with Clinton during her tenure at state were Clinton Foundation donors.

Emails turned up showing how the foundation intervened to arrange a meeting between Clinton and the Crown Prince of Bahrain, a country that had been a major foundation donor. A Chicago commodities trader who donated $100,000 to the foundation got a top job on a State Department arms control panel, despite having no experience in the area. On and on it went.

The editorial concludes:

But the most glaring indictment of the Clinton Foundation came from what happened last year, after Hillary Clinton lost the election — and effectively ended her political career.

First, the Clinton’s almost immediately shuttered the Clinton Global Initiative and laid off 22 employees.

Now, fresh financial documents show that contributions and grants to the Clinton Foundation plunged since Hillary lost her election bid. They dropped from $216 million in 2016 to just $26.5 million in 2017 — a stunning 88% fall. Throughout Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the foundation pulled in an average of $254 million a year. (See chart below for a timeline.)

If the Clinton Foundation was as good as defenders claimed, why did all its big-time donors suddenly lose interest? The only reasonable explanation is that donors weren’t interested in what the foundation supposedly did for humanity. They were interested in the political favors they knew their money would buy.

In April 2015, The New York Post reported:

The Clinton family’s mega-charity took in more than $140 million in grants and pledges in 2013 but spent just $9 million on direct aid.

The group spent the bulk of its windfall on administration, travel, and salaries and bonuses, with the fattest payouts going to family friends.

On its 2013 tax forms, the most recent available, the foundation claimed it spent $30 million on payroll and employee benefits; $8.7 million in rent and office expenses; $9.2 million on “conferences, conventions and meetings”; $8 million on fundraising; and nearly $8.5 million on travel. None of the Clintons is on the payroll, but they do enjoy first-class flights paid for by the foundation.

In all, the group reported $84.6 million in “functional expenses” on its 2013 tax return and had more than $64 million left over — money the organization has said represents pledges rather than actual cash on hand.

Some of the tens of millions in administrative costs finance more than 2,000 employees, including aid workers and health professionals around the world.

But that’s still far below the 75 percent rate of spending that nonprofit experts say a good charity should spend on its mission.

At one time there was an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. I have no idea whether or not it is ongoing. However, just looking at the amount of money spent on overhead and the rapid drop in donations when Hillary was not elected President, I think there are some obvious conclusions that anyone paying attention can draw about the Foundation.

I Don’t Like Federal Regulations, But…

America ideally is a land of equal opportunity. To some extent that is true, but there are some people who abuse their position and take advantage of the generosity of the American people. A story posted in The Boston Herald yesterday illustrates how a charity can be used for personal gain–I am not talking about the Clinton Foundation, but the Clinton Foundation might have gotten a few ideas from what I am about to share.

The article reports:

Do you know how much money Joe Kennedy, the former congressman, is now making at his “nonprofit”?

According to the most recent documents, his “public charity” has filed with the state attorney general, in 2016 Kennedy pocketed a total of $824,929 — $109,336 from Citizens Energy and $715,703 from “related organizations.”

His second wife, Beth, grabbed another $316,573 — $55,222 from Citizens Energy and $261,351 from those “related organizations.”

…Kerry Kennedy, got back into the news recently.

… like her older brother, Kerry, too, is fabulously well-to-do thanks to a family “nonprofit.”

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights foundation pays her $352,298 a year, including a $70,000 “bonus.”

…Reading the stories about Kerry’s big payday reminded me of Joe K. And it’s not only him and the second missus who are getting rich off the Citizens Energy gig —  I mean, nonprofit.

According to the public filing, CE’s CEO, one Peter Smith, made $627,983 in 2016. The chief financial officer, Ernest Panos, pocketed $447,260. Joe’s flack in his congressional office —  Brian O’Connor —  now makes $240,962 a year at Citizens Energy.

Charity Navigator, a somewhat reliable source for rating charities, does not rate Citizens Energy Corp because Charity Navigator only rates organizations that are classified as 501(c)(3) and able to accept tax-deductible donations. Citizens Energy Corp is classified as a 501(c)(4). However, just as a point of reference, Charity Navigator does rate the Clinton Foundation as 92.40 out of 100. I find that somewhat questionable.

It seems to me that there are people making large amounts of money due to the generosity of the American people. The government should not be in the business of determining the wages of anyone, but it seems to me that those running non-profit organizations should be paid salaries more in line with the average American. Helping people in need should not be a million-dollar-a-year job. I suspect the only way to deal with this problem is for the American people to pay more attention to the charities they support. More transparency from charities would also be helpful. Americans are a very generous people. It is unfortunate that there are those among us who are taking advantage of that generosity.

Some Much-Needed Perspective

The following is a letter to the editor submitted to a local paper by a friend of a friend. The letter makes some very important points.

God’s Role, Not Government’s   by Don Keel

I’ve noticed breathtaking naivete displayed through forum letters and articles recently. Some clergy have advocated government as the means to follow Christ‘s teaching to help “the least among us.” The very nature and mission of government and Christ are diametrically opposed.

Christian charity is voluntary, rewarding the giver as well as the receiver. Government programs require forced confiscation of earnings through threat of fines or imprisonment. The receiver of Christian charity is humbled by the kindness of neighbors and he often receives his blessing in a way that glorifies Christ. This, in turn, will increase the likelihood that he will strive for self-reliance and inspire him to one day ‘pay it forward.’ Government programs redistribute mass amounts of earnings with very little scrutiny or accountability.

Because of the “blanket approach,” government programs reward bad behavior and punish good behavior. They punish ambition and encourage sloth and dependency. This in turn creates a cycle of dependency that destroys one’s dignity, self-esteem, self-worth, and ambition and creates a cycle that is almost impossible to break. Some people have found a way to grow their families by taking from another person’s family and have found a way to live ever increasingly in comfort by taking comforts away from another who actually worked for that privilege.

The Gospels contain many accounts of spiritually-impelled charity, but never does Jesus advocate government-forced charity. American government was to confine itself to protecting God-given rights. The word “entitlement” denotes a right or claim. In the modern welfare state, it means a right to someone else’s money. Such a punitive “right” nullifies the legitimate rights of others to their own property. It, in a sense, forces others to work for the benefit of others–a notion rejected in this country years ago and addressed in the 13th Amendment.

I would submit that no Christian would advocate forcibly taking from one and giving to another. Yet that is what our government does. They would rightly regard such taking as theft–prohibited by one of the Ten Commandments, the cornerstone of God’s Law on Earth. Delegating that authority to the government does not somehow change the character of what entitlement programs are. Delegating that authority to government does not sanctify taking private property. The 8th Commandment does not say, “Thou Shalt Not Steal…except by majority vote.” Clearly, some clergy have confused what is to be rendered to Caesar with what should be rendered to God.

Don Keel