Friday, April 19, 2013

Should Millions of Charity Dollars Steer The Political Ship?

by Gary Snyder

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz endorsed Council Speaker Christine Quinn of Manhattan for mayor. While two of her rival candidates have deep Brooklyn roots, Ms. Quinn has done something they have not: directed more than $1 million to three nonprofits closely tied to Mr. Markowitz and his office over the past three city budgets, records show.
In 2013, $175,000 went to Best of Brooklyn, one of the nonprofits, and since 2011, another $400,000 went to the Martin Luther King Jr. concert series. And since 2011, another $450,000 has gone to the Seaside Summer Concert Series. All the member items are designated as being from the "Council," which in essence means they were under the speaker's direct control. The concerts, which are popular, free to attend and typically feature high-profile performers, are heavily touted and treasured by the borough president, who also secures corporate sponsorship for them.
Mr. Markowitz in a statement said that "The City Council's support for these nonprofit organizations helps to improve the lives of tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents and businesses—from boosting tourism to providing free concerts. I commend not just Speaker Quinn, but the speakers before her and the entire Brooklyn City Council delegation for their role in this funding and all funding for Brooklyn nonprofits."
The New York Times says donors with business before it are all but barred from contributing to officials in the city’s campaign finance system. Yet in recent years, Mr. Markowitz has found another way to tap into those donors. He has established a network of four charities that has reaped at least $20 million since 2003, and probably more, according to interviews and an analysis of city records.
Dick Dadey, the executive director of good-government group Citizens Union, which is not opposed to member items, said the council's donations to Mr. Markowitz's nonprofits raised questions. "I think it's troubling that the council provided money to the borough president's nonprofits, which are then used to promote Markowitz and his other interests," Mr. Dadey said.
Recently, The Wall Street Journal wrote, the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development, that has gotten more than $100,000 from the council the past three years and is pushing a housing plan similar to Ms. Quinn's. (Crain's New York)

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times, National Enquirer...and many more Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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