So many pigs, of late, sidling up to the charity trough. In a post ironically titled The New Philanthropy, my colleague at Philanthropybeat counts up the number of recent cases of those who took advantage of the tax code and lax IRS oversight to enrich themselves and their families. Add to that list, perhaps, the case of Edwin A. Buckham, senior advisor to former House Whip Tom Delay, who received more than a third of the $3 million he collected for the U.S. Family Network, a charity created by Buckham to advance “pro-family” political causes in Congress.
This case, involving Jack Abramoff and other Republican operatives, is still under investigation by the FBI, so perhaps it’s too early to say oink, oink.
At the glory end of the shame-glory continuum we have philanthropists like Tracy Gary, a Pillsbury heiress who at age 21 inherited a $1.3 million trust fund from her parents. She subsequently gave the bulk of her fortune ($1 million of it) to charity and committed an additional 70 percent of her annual salary as a philanthropy consultant to worthy causes. Ms. Gary recently launched a new initiative, Inspired Legacies, to provide “a , space in which donors, nonprofits, advisors, and citizens can meet to transform themselves, philanthropy, and society.” Fellow philanthropy blogger, Phil Cubeta, has been helping Tracy get her new venture up and running.
Stories like Tracy’s and those of the hundreds of thousands of people who toil selflessly in philanthropy’s fields seldom make front page news. These people do their work in broad daylight, yet by a trick of the media lens, appear to be surrounded by an impenetrable gloom. Their light thus obscured, the charitable sector makes easy pickings for the wolves who have a much greater feeling for scandal than for the great good that the sector inspires and produces.
This entry is cross-posted at White Courtesy Telephone, a blog covering nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropy.