Philanthropy Notes: February 2012

Last month President Obama named former National Council of La Raza executive Cecilia Muñoz as his senior domestic policy advisor. Open borders advocate Muñoz replaces Melody Barnes who had announced in October she was resigning from the post. Muñoz was previously chairman of the far left Center for Community Change, on the U.S. programs board of George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and on the board of the Atlantic Philanthropies. As part of her new job Muñoz will run the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, the White House unit with the most contact with nonprofit leaders.

The board of the Corporation for National and Community Service has chosen Laysha L. Ward, president of community relations for retail giant Target, as its new chairman. Ward joined the board in 2008. As chairman she replaces Mark Gearan, a Democratic Party insider and president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, who resigned.

A federal judge sentenced former Congressman Mark Siljander (R-Mich.) to a year in prison for his involvement in a terrorist fundraising ring. Siljander pleaded guilty in 2010 to acting as an unregistered foreign agent and lying to government officials regarding his relationship with the now-defunct Islamic American Relief Agency. Prosecutors said the agency used nonprofit front groups to pay Siljander $75,000 to lobby to have its name removed from a government terrorism watch list. Siljander is also a former U.S. delegate to the United Nations.

The San Francisco-based Craigslist Foundation (2009 assets: $8.9 million) is closing, its president Lynn Luckow announced. The charity, founded a decade ago by Craig Newmark, creator of the popular Craigslist website, runs an annual Nonprofit Boot Camp that trains charity leaders. The foundation gave no clear indication why it was shutting down. A statement on its website indicated that “After consulting with craigslist, inc., our board and staff felt this was the right thing to do at this time.”

Nonprofits that automatically lost their tax-exempt status last year for failing to file tax returns for three years have to overcome unnecessary obstacles when they try to have their status reinstated, according to independent federal watchdog Nina E. Olson, national taxpayer advocate at the Internal Revenue Service. The upwards of 385,000 nonprofits that got booted from the tax-exempt rolls can’t appeal the loss of tax-exempt status and instead are instructed to file the same form they used when originally seeking the status. The form can take seven or more months to process, Olson said.

 GOLDMAN SACHS WATCH

Goldman Sachs is one of the most hated companies in America, ranked number five by the financial website 247wallst.com. Goldman’s lousy reputation was solidified when the U.S. government sued it for fraud in 2010. The investment bank settled the case by agreeing to pay a penalty of $550 million. Goldman is facing a barrage of lawsuits over mortgage instruments it sold worth close to $16 billion in total and last year the Federal Housing Finance Agency accused the company of misrepresenting the quality of $11.1 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities. Also on the list of top-10 most hated companies are Facebook, American Airlines, AT&T, Nokia, Best Buy, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, Sears, and Netflix.

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