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Right Turn
Posted at 08:28 AM ET, 03/02/2012

Outing the donors

Yesterday’s ad by the Emergency Committee for Israel aimed at the Center for American Progress, Media Matters and some of their donors raised two interesting issues stemming from the nature of charitable entities that support them.

A number of the charitable entities that contribute to CAP and Media Matters are “donor-advised funds.”A representative from one of these, the Schwab Charitable Fund, e-mailed me yesterday: “Schwab Charitable Fund is a donor advised fund (as are many of the others listed in the advertisement) that facilitates tax-effective client giving of clients via a charitable account that they can contribute to and grant from over time. Grants can be made to any qualified 501c3 charity and the work of these charities can vary dramatically as you might expect. Our clients have contributed to over 54,000 qualified charities since inception.” She continued: “When you saw Schwab Charitable Fund listed as a donor to Center for American Progress, it merely means that a client contributed to the organization. It in no way reflects the views of Schwab Charitable, Schwab or its management. Concerns over the merits of qualified 501c3 charities should be directed to the IRS, who can properly evaluate and investigate.”

Put differently, these donor-advised funds are a mechanism for wealthy people to give to charities, in some cases anonymously and with certain tax and administrative benefits.

Now some funds are operated by financial institutions like Schwab, which obviously have a business interest in providing an array of financial services to their clients. But what of Jewish organizations that promote themselves as pro-Israel? What exactly is their excuse for allowing donors to funnel money to organizations that may not promote their same lofty goals?

In fact, some prohibit donations to some anti-Israel groups. Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (CJP), for example, won’t let donations be made to “any organization that opposes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state or advocates for boycotts, divestments and sanctions.” In doing so, that entity makes a value judgment and determines which groups are acceptable and which are not. These groups therefore cannot hide behind the mask of neutrality. They should and will be held accountable for allowing their groups to be used to support entities that have become controversial in the Jewish community. To be clear, CJP can facilitate giving to whomever it pleases. But what it can’t do is escape scrutiny for the choices it makes.

And this comes to a larger point. The left started the game of “get the donor.” It has made a fetish out of harassing the Koch brothers, for example. It has no qualms about highlighting the political endeavors of private citizens who take part in the political process. Even the president’s campaign has now gotten in on the act in an unprecedented attack on specific individuals who give generously to conservative causes. So did the left really expect that the same tactics would not be employed against rich liberal donors?

It is not simply George Soros whom the right is prepare to bird dog. He’s old news, frankly. Take this report from the new conservative Washington Free Beacon about giving to President Obama’s super PAC (Priorities USA) and other Democratic candidates and causes:

Half of the donations to Priorities USA have come from Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who told USA Today, “The stakes are too high for us to simply allow the extremism of a small but well-funded right wing minority to go unchallenged.” Katzenberg cut his $2 million check to Priorities USA last spring, and his Dreamworks colleague Steven Spielberg followed with another $100,000 just a few months later.
In addition to his fundraising largesse this cycle, Katzenberg was a bundler for Obama’s 2008 campaign, raising at least $500,000. He and his wife personally gave $352,402 to Democrats in 2008.
Last Friday, Dreamworks announced a $2 billion deal with the Chinese government for the company to build a production studio in Shanghai. The deal came just days after Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met for an extensive meeting with Barack Obama in Washington, a visit that was followed by the Chinese Vice President’s trip to Los Angeles to meet with Katzenberg.

To be blunt, it’s game on. The left has decided to try to expose and criticize right-wing donors; now the right is doing the same.The playing field, at least if ECI and outlets like the Washington Free Beacon have their way, is being leveled. If you give large amounts to candidates and controversial causes, whether on the right or the left, the days when you could enjoy pleasant anonymity are over. And if the donor is a Jewish organization that has as its explicit mission support for Israel, it should anticipate that each an every gift will be open to scrutiny. It is quite a can of worms the left has opened up, no?

By  |  08:28 AM ET, 03/02/2012

Categories:  American Jews, 2012 campaign

 
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