Philanthropy Notes: November 2012

Political candidates’ grumbling about the charitable deduction has many donors, grant makers, and nonprofit experts worried, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. At the Philanthropy Roundtable’s annual conference last month, noted election law attorney Cleta Mitchell argued that losing the deduction would devastate the philanthropy world. “Stop calling it a deduction and start calling it an incentive,” said Mitchell. “If you give money to charity, it should not be defined as income.” Mitchell said the Constitution or the federal tax code should be amended to ensure that donors will be allowed to reduce their gross income by the amount they give to charity. President Obama proposed capping all deductions at 28 percent for the wealthiest Americans, while Mitt Romney has repeatedly vowed to limit total deductions to $17,000 for middle-income families and lower for the wealthy.

In a jab at electoral integrity groups, liberal billionaire William Louis-Dreyfus ostentatiously gave $1 million to left-wing so-called voting rights groups. The commodities kingpin ran an ad in the New York Times announcing his donation to groups such as the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University that are fighting desperately needed voter ID laws. “It struck me that there was an unexplainable inattention in the country over what for me can only be interpreted as a direct attack on our democracy,” Louis-Dreyfus said. Groups like the Brennan Center claim voter ID laws are aimed at preventing the poor and minorities from voting.

The 400 nonprofit groups that raise the most from private sources achieved a median 7.5-percent gain last year, the third straight year of median gains for these nonprofits in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 400 rankings. But those 400 groups did much better than the rest of the nonprofit world, where charitable giving rose under 1 percent last year. The Philanthropy 400 is “a bellwether of giving trends because the charities on the list collect $1 of every $4 donated by individuals, corporations, and foundation,” according to the newspaper.



“In the first case of its kind, a unit of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. settled charges that a former banker in its Boston office worked for the political campaign of a former Massachusetts treasurer while winning bond underwriting business in the state,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Goldman employee Neil M. M. Morrison had worked for Tim Cahill when the latter was state treasurer and continued working for him at Goldman. To help Cahill’s unsuccessful run for governor, Morrison sent hundreds of campaign-related e-mails from his Goldman account, vetted a running mate for Cahill, drafted speeches, and negotiated campaign contracts. In return, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges, Morrison won 30 Massachusetts bond issues worth $9 billion, on which Goldman earned $7.5 million. Goldman settled with the SEC, neither admitting nor denying the charges, and agreed to pay the largest penalty ever imposed by the SEC for violating the pay-for-play rules that govern municipal bonds: $7,558,942 in disgorgement, $670,033 in interest, and a $3.75 million penalty. Goldman also agreed to “a $4.6 million settlement on related charges with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.” In addition Cahill faces trial “on charges he used state lottery funds to finance political ads during his run for governor.”

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