Old Diary

Foundation of Corruption

I’ve been wondering about something for a while now.charityIt’s kind of gotten under my skin and I know I’m not going to change anything but I think it’s something worth thinking about.

Have you ever thought about the way celebrities get interested in a cause and the next thing you now they have started a foundation to ‘help’ whatever cause they are concerned about.  We do live in a Capitalist society and after the Trump family were found guilty of misusing funds in their own charity I got to wondering about other charities, and how many of them are simply ways to make a few easy bucks without drawing a lot of attention to themselves.

It seems every year there are stories about which charity you should donate to.  As you may know there are groups that audit charitable foundations/organizations and determine how many dollars of every donation go to their programs, how many dollars go to advertising/fund raising, and how many dollars go to the principal administrators. One of the big cancer research charities here in Milwaukee recently (well, maybe not so “recently” — but a few years ago) got stung because the chief administrator was pulling in a well rounded six figure salary.  And there are a lot or excuses for why an administrator of a research facility should be making a good living, but when that organization is a tax exempt charity it gets harder to sell those reasons.  My point being that there are a pot full of foundations / organizations that make it sound like they are doing good work, but a significant part of their fundraising goes to pay handsome salaries.

I was involved with two tax exempt organizations in my life.  One of them had zero paid employees.  One of them had one paid employee who earned the kingly sum of $400.00 per month.  I’m aware of the minimal reporting requirements and I have had accounting people try to talk me into getting involved with similar groups as a way of making money.  I didn’t take them up on the suggestion.

But a question comes to mind. When people become aware of needs in the community why is it that so often they have to start a new organization to meet that need?  Are there no other groups who can fill that need?  Or are there no organizations who could be talked into adding an addition area of activity — does there always need to be a newly formed organization that the founding individual has to be part of?

The situation of the Trumps, where money was diverted from the charity for … among other things … an oil painting of Donald… has me wondering how many other organizations divert moneys for corporate getaways, and executive perks?  The IRS rules that govern what expenses a business can deduct as legitimate expenses are pretty lenient.  I know the Milwaukee Yacht Club moors a few boats there that are owned by for-profit businesses.  I don’t know how many may be there as part of a charitable foundation’s holdings, but I would not be surprised if there weren’t a couple.  My point being that once the money is transferred from donor to foundation accountability gets a bit cloudy.

I wonder how many cancer research foundations there are in the U.S. today.  Each one is doing research on some aspect of cancer I’m sure.  And each one has it’s own reasons for confidentiality.  But wouldn’t the world be closer to a cure for cancer — just as one example — if there were some form of coordination between and among all those doing research to insure that there were no overlaps, and that the breakthroughs in one were shared with all the others.  But I’m sure that doesn’t happen because in the U.S., medicine is a for-profit endeavor and cancer research, while it perhaps should be aimed at saving as many lives as possible, is still performed in the hopes of finding some cure that will be marketable.

Fortunately, not all charities are crass and money-grubbing.  And there are a great many who’s function is to support those who suffer from a variety of problems.  I’m glad for that.  I support them.

But that does not change the fact that in our Capitalist society there’s a huge incentive for people to… make a profit.  And having found that the resident of the White House is not immune to profiting from a charity it makes me wonder how many others there are who are doing likewise.

Just a question for you to ponder in your quiet moments.