Making headlines – Week of 03.12.07

* NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon resigned suddenly after 19 months on the job, throwing the advocacy group into disarray, the Associated Press reported March 5. Gordon cited clashes with board members over management style and disagreement over his vision to increase the group’s emphasis on social-service work as reasons for his departure.

* Infighting in the environmental community has soured a victory that would oblige controversial Texas utility TXU Corp. to move in a “greener” direction should a buyout bid by the holding company formed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Texas Pacific Group and others go through, the Wall Street Journal reported March 3. Opponents say leading environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense, settled for too little by praising as “concessions” projects TXU already planned to shelve, and by allowing loopholes that might undermine these concessions in the future.

* Maurice R. Greenberg, former head of AIG, acted in “good faith” as an executor of the estate of the company’s founder C.V. Starr, according to a report released by the Starr Foundation, which Greenberg chairs, Reuters reported March 6. A December 2005 New York Attorney General’s report accused Greenberg and other executors of benefiting from the sale of foundation assets at below-market value to two companies controlled by Greenberg.

* The U.S. House of Representatives will form the first-ever bipartisan caucus on philanthropy, to be co-chaired by North Carolina Republican Robin Hayes, the Examiner reported March 5. The caucus will serve as a potential platform for briefings on sector needs and coordination of legislation.

* Former President Bill Clinton has amassed $40 million over the last six years in fees for public speaking, engagements his spokesman says allow him to earn a living while leaving ample time for charity, the Washington Post reported Feb. 23. Last year Clinton gave almost a speech a day, about eight in 10 of which were given for free or for donations to the William J. Clinton Foundation.

* The high-profile Red campaign to increase private-sector donations for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has fallen drastically short of fundraising expectations, AdAge reported March 5. Red set out to change the cause-marketing model by allowing partners Gap, Apple and Motorola to profit from a philanthropic cause, but while the companies have spent up to $100 million to market Red products, the Global Fund has received only $18 million from their efforts.

* About 600 charities and foundations were forced to file amended tax forms, and 40 individuals were asked to pay more than $20 million in penalty excise taxes, after an IRS report found flaws in the way payments to executives and others were reported, the New York Times reported March 1. These philanthropic groups represent nearly a third of those reviewed by an IRS study, begun in 2004, and highlight the need for greater regulation of compensation in the nonprofit sector, the article says.

* Billionaire Warren Buffett aims to distribute to charity all his shares in his personal holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. within the next 25 years, the Associated Press reported March 1. In his annual letter to shareholders, Buffett said he wanted the money spent while people he knows to be “capable, vigorous and motivated” are still in charge of the five foundations he designated to receive most of his $48.4 billion fortune.

* eBay founder Pierre Omidyar has chosen Matthew J. Bannick as the new managing partner for his personal philanthropy, the Omidyar Network, the New York Times reported March 8. Bannick, who previously ran eBay’s global philanthropy division, will manage a $284 million nonprofit grant pool and $200 million earmarked for profit-making investments with social welfare goals.

* “Operating” foundations are gaining popularity, especially among younger donors, as a way to marry mission with funds, the Wall Street Journal reported March. 2 [subscription only]. While operating foundations implement programs as well as fund them, and offer greater tax advantages than traditional foundations, they must spend 85 percent of their assets annually, compared to five percent for traditional foundations.

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