Monday, October 3, 2011

A Bit of Backround on Solyndra's George Kaiser and His Foundation

This setup is a bit different from your giving the Salvation Army a hundo so the homeless guy has a mat to rack out on.

From Philanthropy Daily:
...For example, it turns out that the “George Kaiser Family Foundation” isn’t exactly a foundation as conventionally understood. Legally speaking, it’s not a “private nonoperating foundation” like, say, the Ford Foundation or the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Instead, it’s a “supporting organization” of the Tulsa Community Foundation.

That fact has several consequences:
– George Kaiser can use a much higher proportion of his donations to lower his personal income tax bill.
– The Kaiser Foundation can own big chunks of for-profit companies like Solyndra, whereas it’s not clear a standard foundation could legally do so.
– Unlike standard foundations, the Kaiser Foundation has no legal requirement to give away at least 5 percent of its assets every year (and so far it hasn’t come close to giving that much away – in 2009, the last year for which figures are available, it contributed just over 1 percent to charities).

In addition, the Tulsa Community Foundation, co-founded by Kaiser, also has no requirement to give away a proportion of its assets each year. The Washington Post reports that the Kaiser Foundation was so intriguing a philanthropic arrangement that the Senate Finance Committee, in its internal discussions of charitable abuses a few years back, used it as a whipping boy. The Post quotes an internal committee memo:
“Tax deductions for charitable contributions are intended to encourage transfer of wealth to those in need,” the memo said. “Individuals should not be allowed to ‘park’ their assets in charities in order to preserve their assets in perpetuity, while simultaneously benefiting from a charitable contribution deduction.”
    The loophole used by [the George Kaiser Family Foundation], the memo concluded, “is now being used by wealthy individuals to avoid the private foundation rules.” Those organizations, it said, were in effect “conducting the abusive activities Congress intended to curb” when it established the 5 percent minimum payout for foundations.
Some observers on the left have also criticized the Kaiser Foundation. Pablo Eisenberg of Georgetown University’s Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership told the Washington Post that the Kaiser Foundation is “not supporting anything but itself.” Echoing that sentiment, Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy observed, “if people have received a tax deduction for their gifts, those assets ought to be put to use sooner rather than later.”...