Monthly Notes

Philanthropy Notes: February 2015

Fundraising goes well for the Chicago-based Barack Obama Foundation, which is overseeing the creation of the Obama presidential library and museum. The philanthropy took in between $2.75 million and $4.9 million last year, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Major donors from 2014 include big Democratic donor Fred Eychaner ($500,000 and $1 million) and the Joyce Foundation (between $250,000 and $500,000). Other donors disclosed by the Obama Foundation include hedge fund manager Michael J. Sacks and his wife, Cari ($250,001 to $500,000) and software entrepreneur/gay rights activist Tim Gill (amount not disclosed).

The IRS’s anticipated new regulations on political activity by nonprofit organizations—especially rules for 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups that have multiplied in number—are unlikely to be unveiled before midyear. That means, says the left-wing journalism shop ProPublica, that they may not be in place in time to affect the 2016 election. Although IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said last June that the new rules would surface early in 2015, IRS spokeswoman Julianne Breitbeil now says the agency will miss that deadline. In late 2013 the agency proposed a crackdown on politicking by nonprofits but withdrew the plan under heavy fire from both conservative and liberal activists.

The New York Times is suddenly alarmed that a growing number of affluent art aficionados are opening small, private museums, some with strictly limited visitor access. A recent article by Patricia Cohen expresses concern that these institutions’ founders “can deduct the full market value of any art, cash and stocks they donate, even when the museums are just a quick stroll from their living rooms.” Nonprofit museums such as the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Connecticut are situated near their founders’ homes, host few exhibitions, are closed the bulk of the year, or allow visitors to tour their facilities only by prearranged appointment. Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said such museums “do not follow the intent, even if they follow the letter, of the law” on art gifts. “They feed into the idea that the system is rigged toward the wealthy.”

After less than a year and a half in the post, Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation CEO Eric Braverman has been forced out. The consultant, who previously worked at McKinsey & Co., “was struggling in recent months, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the foundation’s internal workings,” Politico reports. He has been replaced on an interim basis by “Maura Pally, a Hillary Clinton confidante who worked as a deputy assistant secretary during Clinton’s time at the State Department.” At the same time Pally was also named senior vice president for women and youth programs at the Clinton Foundation.

Catholic Charities USA has appointed the first woman to lead the church-run social services organization in its 105 years, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. Sister Donna Markham, a clinical psychologist and longtime Catholic Charities trustee, is president of the Ohio-based Behavioral Health Institute for Mercy Health. Markham, former prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation in Michigan, will take over on June 1, replacing the Rev. Larry Snyder, who has been running the agency since 2005.



Goldman Sachs Group’s effort to woo Banco Espirito Santo, a Portuguese bank, has failed, causing Goldman to reduce some employee bonuses, according to news reports. Goldman and some of its clients lent $835 million to the foreign bank last summer in hopes of helping it and Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, but BES collapsed and the Portuguese government, forced to bail it out, says Goldman doesn’t deserve full repayment.