Philanthropy Notes: November 2013

Despite the rotten economy, many private foundations are bouncing back financially. Overall, foundations experienced a 12 percent gain in their endowments last year, the Wall Street Journal reports. A study by the Council on Foundations and the Commonfund Institute examined the finances of 140 private foundations with a total of $78.7 billion in assets. The 12 percent jump compared favorably to a decline of 0.7 percent in 2011.

A separate WSJ article notes that five years after a major financial crisis rocked Wall Street, major figures associated with the dramatic downturn are opening up their wallets for charity. Former Countrywide Financial Corp. CEO Angelo Mozilo’s foundation gave $2 million for a pediatric intensive-care unit in Tarzana, Calif. Former Bank of America CEO Kenneth D. Lewis donated $100,000 to a group that runs a foster-care home in Charlotte, N.C. There is no such thing as dirty money, according to Sean Dobson of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. “As the leader of a nonprofit, you’re typically hard-pressed for resources,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to turn down money.”

The National Organization for Marriage is suing the IRS in federal court seeking damages over the illegal release of its donor list from the confidential part of its 2008 IRS filing. The list went to the group’s arch-enemies at Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which harassed the donors. HRC’s president, Joseph Solmonese, was then a national co-chairman for President Obama’s re-election campaign. “This is a federal crime,” says NOM president Brian Brown. One of NOM’s lawyers is Cleta Mitchell, of counsel to ActRight Legal Foundation.

While President Obama’s politicized IRS was busy harassing conservative groups, it was also advising black nonprofits on how far they could legally go in campaigning for Obama and other Democratic candidates, writes Hoover Institution media fellow Paul E. Sperry in Investor’s Business Daily. In 2012 the IRS “audited big GOP donors and blocked Tea Party groups trying to obtain tax-exempt status as part of what House investigators suspect was an effort to re-elect the president,” he says. At the same time top administration officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, “met in Washington with several dozen prominent black church ministers representing millions of voters to brief them on how to get their flocks out to vote.” The “summit” to mobilize religious African-Americans voters was hosted by the all-Democratic Congressional Black Caucus in May 2012.

GOLDMAN SACHS WATCH

A former employee is suing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, claiming she was wrongfully terminated because she refused to alter the results of her investigation into mega-bank Goldman Sachs.  Carmen Segarra’s federal lawsuit says the New York Fed pressured her to modify her report about Goldman’s legal and compliance divisions.  She says she refused in May 2012, and was then unceremoniously canned a few days later.  “Segarra’s finding led the New York Fed’s Legal and Compliance risk team to approve downgrading Goldman’s annual rating pertaining to policies and procedures, the lawsuit said,” according to a news report.

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