Nonprofit news roundup for Dec. 19, 2008

Clinton reveals foundation donors

Former President Bill Clinton revealed the names of the donors to his foundation to allay fears that his charitable work might present conflicts of interest should his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, become secretary of state, the Associated Press reported Dec. 18. Saudi Arabia was one of the most generous donors, contributing between $10 million and $25 million. Several donations from Indian businessmen and politicians may raise questions about the Clintons’ relationship with India, which is embroiled in conflict with neighboring Pakistan. Other donors include the Blackwater Training Center, American International Group, Lehman Brothers Holdings, Yahoo, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Kuwait and Qatar.

Alleged Madoff scam overtakes nonprofits

Nonprofits supported by the JEHT Foundation and the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, which plan to shut their doors after losing millions in New York financier Bernard Madoff’s alleged investing scam, are scrambling to find other sources of funding, BusinessWeek reported Dec. 19 (see scam story). Madoff’s clients invested a total of $36 billion with his firm, Bloomberg reported Dec. 19.

Assembly reviews tax exemption for Kennedy’s charity

New York State lawmakers will determine whether a charity that Caroline Kennedy helps run was properly granted an exemption from a state law mandating full financial disclosure, the Associated Press reported Dec. 18 (see exemption story). The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board granted the exemption to the Fund for Public Schools in mid-October, citing that the charity was not affiliated with city government. Kennedy, who serves as vice president of the charity, hopes to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.

Philanthropist awaits sentencing behind bars

As the Madoff scandal leaves the philanthropic world reeling, a judge in New York has ordered that Alberto Vilar, another well-known philanthropist and money manager, be imprisoned as he awaits his March 20 sentencing for lying to clients about the security of their investments, the Associated Press reported Dec. 19. Vilar, once a benefactor for opera and cultural institutions, faces at least 27 years in prison on conspiracy fraud charges.

Los Angeles museum agrees to rescue plan

The beleaguered Los Angeles-based Museum of Contemporary Art has agreed to accept a bailout from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, The New York Times reported Dec. 18 (see museum story). The preliminary agreement hinges on Broad’s review of the museum’s financial accounts, say three people close to the museum’s board. The museum’s endowment has tumbled to $6 million from $40 million in the past 10 years.

Hearst Foundation gives $1 million in grants

The William Randolph Hearst Foundation has given a total of $1 million in grants to eight California nonprofits, including the San Francisco Ballet Association, the Pacific Primary School and the San Francisco Film Society, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Dec. 19 (see grant story). The foundation has awarded more than $85 million in grants over the past 10 years to California nonprofits providing education, health-care, social-services and cultural programs.

In Brief:

* Many charity rankings, which fail to measure charities’ success in achieving their missions, create a false sense of security among donors and prompt nonprofits to try to “game the system,” says Carl Bialik in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal Dec. 19.

* Despite layoffs and flagging profits, many U.S. corporations are stepping up to the plate to help ailing charities, says Steven Pearlstein in a column in The Washington Post Dec. 19.

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