Monthly Notes

Philanthropy Notes: February 2014

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg topped the list of high-dollar philanthropists in the U.S. in 2013, the Financial Times of London reports. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, gave $990 million worth of Facebook stock in December to the San Mateo, Calif.-based Silicon Valley Community Foundation. This left-of-center philanthropy says, “Our leadership is rooted in our strong point of view on social equality as well as our collaborative relationships with the nonprofit groups and institutions advancing the best ideas.”

The pseudo-volunteers at the always-controversial federal program known as “AmeriCorps” (which pays “volunteers” who work for nonprofits) now face penalties under Obamacare. The reason? Because the health plans the Obama administration provides for AmeriCorps members don’t meet the legal requirements of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. the Obamacare statute). On the up side, this embarrassment has been educational for AmeriCorps youth, because it has helped them better understand the nature of government. Take 24-year-old AmeriCorps member Abby Grosslein, who is pictured in a New York Times article on this problem posing under her “FORWARD!” poster. “It would be nice if the government waived the penalty because we are a federally funded program,” said Grosslein, who is completing her third year of service with AmeriCorps. “It’s as if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.”

Under a three-year-old Georgetown University Medical Center program called Partners in Research, individual donors agreed to give at least $1,000 to the medical center in exchange for appointments as judges reviewing proposals by Georgetown researchers. The program was begun in 2011, the Washington Post reports, as part of an effort to develop new ways to finance biomedical research. “Call it a wonky version of ‘American Idol’ — or, perhaps more aptly, ‘Research for a Cause,’” the newspaper quipped. “Without a great track record or good preliminary data, it’s increasingly hard to win funding” from the National Institutes of Health or private foundations, said Vivien Marion, a senior director in the medical center’s office of advancement. In 2013, 59 donors gave $70,000 to Partners in Research.



Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is shifting gears, according to the Wall Street Journal. The sometimes celebrated, sometimes reviled investment bank is now “reining in riskier activities, shrinking its balance sheet and steering clear of trades that don’t produce the double-digit-percentage returns its shareholders crave.” The firm is steering a more risk-averse course because a tougher regulatory environment and lackluster markets have shaved its profit margins. This makes it more difficult for Goldman to operate as it had in the boom years before the 2008 mortgage meltdown. Goldman now receives about half of its revenue from trading stocks, bonds, and other securities, but it is now distancing itself from riskier moves that require it to retain large capital reserves.

Matthew Vadum

The author of Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers (WND Books, 2011), Vadum, former senior vice president at CRC, writes and speaks widely…
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