Foundation Watch

Philanthropy Notes

November 2015

What difference, at this point, does it make? That seems to be what high-dollar donors and high-profile international figures who bailed on the recent annual conference of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) appear to be asking. Could all the adverse publicity Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been receiving over the Benghazi, email, and foundation-related scandals be taking their toll on CGI, the centerpiece project of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation? Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who were supposed to announce an important low-cost broadband initiative for India at CGI’s confab in New York, unveiled the program elsewhere and skipped the conference altogether, the Wall Street Journal reports. Say what you will about the Clintons and their foundation, but they’re not accustomed to being stood up by important international figures. The foundation is “losing some of its pizzazz,” and many “longtime supporters are avoiding the Clinton spotlight.” At the New York event, some of the other prized speakers failed to show and “piles of media passes sat uncollected.” In addition, six major corporate sponsors of the annual event—including HSBC, Samsung, and PricewaterhouseCoopers—that had given money previously kept their wallets shut this year.

One in three Americans lacks faith in charities, according to a poll conducted with 1,000 respondents by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. This was the first such poll on public attitudes towards the nonprofit sector undertaken by the newspaper since 2008. Upwards of 80 percent said charities do a very good or somewhat good job at helping Americans, but many expressed concerns about how charities use money. “A third said charities don’t spend money wisely, especially on administrative costs, and 41 percent said leaders are paid too much.” Half said that in considering which charities to support, “it was very important that charities spend a low amount on salaries, administration, and fundraising.” A third said such considerations were only somewhat important to them and slightly more said they had little to no confidence in charities.

Harvard’s champion national debating team had its head handed to it recently by inmates at New York’s Eastern Correctional Facility in Napanoch, The Week reports. The prison team was created two years ago in conjunction with Bard College’s Bard Prison Initiative, whose instructors teach inmates debating techniques. The initiative’s executive director, Max Kenner, said the incarcerated “students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty.” The report states that inmates “had to argue that public schools should have the right to turn away students whose parents came to the United States without documents. It was a stance the inmates didn’t agree with, but they were able to come up with points Harvard wasn’t expecting,” and judges awarded the jailbirds a sweet victory.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding its 2015 States and Nation Policy Summit Dec. 2-4 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Exhibitor set-up begins Dec. 1. Keynote speakers have not yet been announced. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), economist Arthur Laffer, and actor Clint Howard spoke at ALEC’s 42nd Annual Meeting in San Diego in July.


Goldman Sachs is under FBI investigation for its possible role in alleged corruption in a series of Malaysian deals. The Wall Street Journal reports that Malaysian anticorruption investigators discovered that somehow $700 million from a firm called 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB) found its way into bank accounts allegedly held by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Mazak, who now denies wrongdoing. Goldman helped generate $1.75 billion in bonds to finance 1MDB’s takeover of a Malaysian power generation company. Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein has been behind the investment bank’s aggressive push into so-called emerging markets.

“Wall Street traders took a thumping over the summer, and no firm was left with deeper bruises than Goldman Sachs Group Inc.,” the Wall Street Journal also reports. The investment bank reported that third-quarter profit this year fell 36 percent from the same period in 2014. “The firm’s revenue in fixed income, currencies and commodities trading fell 33%—10 to 22 percentage points deeper than the declines at the other big banks that reported earnings” in mid-October. “We experienced lower levels of activity and declining asset prices,” CEO Blankfein said. The poor showing is a reminder to investors how dependent Goldman is on buying and selling bonds and commodities such as oil, which experienced volatility over the summer. The bank’s bigger competitors are more diversified and offer services like consumer banking that Goldman eschews.

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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