Foundation Friday: Of “dirty money” and donor intent–a few thoughts

Old-time Chicago newspaperman ´╗┐Sydney J. Harris (and others of his ilk and generation, apparently) used to produce a column every now and then entitled  "Things I Learned While Looking Up Other Things."  In that spirit, here are some meditations on foundation money, whence and whither, sparked by casual research into a press release that came across the Nonprofiteer’s desk earlier this week:

The Charles Bronfman Prize has launched its 2008 award cycle, marking the start of this year’s international quest for extraordinary, young humanitarians. The Prize celebrates the vision and talent of an individual or team under 50 years of age whose humanitarian work has contributed significantly to the betterment of the world. Its goal is to bring public recognition to dynamic individuals whose Jewish values infuse their humanitarian accomplishments and provide inspiration to the next generations.

Nominations guidelines and forms for the $100,000 award are available at Nominations for the 2008 Prize will be accepted through November 30, 2007.

Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Andrew Hauptman together with Stephen Bronfman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman established the Prize to honor their father.

1. The Nonprofiteer’s first impulse was to say something pissy about the source of Bronfman money, that is, bootlegging, because she’s not merely teetotal herself but a crusader against alcohol.  So she was working up something along the lines of, "Having poisoned millions of people . . ." until she did a little research, whereupon she discovered not only that the founders of the Prize are two full generations removed from the distillery (their father’s father ran Seagram’s) but–more important–that prefacing commentary about the Bronfmans with words like, "Having poisoned millions of people . . ." is the stock in trade of the most vicious anti-Semitic thugs on the Web.

The Nonprofiteer has no interest in sharing a universe with those people, much less an opinion.  Alcohol is a terrible drug and it’s ruined a lot of people’s lives but that’s not actually the fault of any single purveyor, and it’s certainly not evidence of a Jewish plot to take over the world by getting the goyim too drunk to run it themselves–even if permanent stupefying intoxication seems like the only explanation for the way the current gang is operating. 

2. People who believe the Bronfmans are agents of the International Jewish Conspiracy also think, and are the intellectual heirs of those who think, that the Rothschilds control everything with a little assist from the Illuminati and the Freemasons.  Prominent in an earlier generation of such people was Henry Ford, who arranged American publication of "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," ostensibly an account of a meeting at which Jews planned the conquest of the world.  (The origins of this forgery are incredibly complicated, but its outlines were created by Russian secret police under the Czar to try to discredit Marxist revolutionaries, who were presumed to be–though most of them weren’t–Jews.) 

Ford was so taken with the Protocols’ view of world history as a Jewish plot that he retitled the piece "The International Jew" (lest anybody miss the point) and produced thousands of copies which he distributed through Ford dealerships, a practice ended only after his death in 1947.  No wonder the Nonprofiteer’s father, who wouldn’t buy a Volkswagen because he said it was "bound in Jewish skin," hesitated so long before buying a Ford. 

So that’s the provenance of Ford Foundation money–it was sweated off workers by a rabid anti-Semite–yet it’s not the first thing usually mentioned in connection with any new initiative by the Foundation.  The Nonprofiteer points it out here only in the spirit of even-handedness: what’s sauce (so to speak) for the Bronfmans . . .

3. In light of #s 1 and 2, let’s evaluate something philanthropist T. Denny Sanford recently said about the Ford Foundation:

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"Denny is the kind of hard-nosed guy who says, ‘I
don’t want to create a permanent foundation staff doing things I don’t
approve of because it fits their cultural values,’" says Newt Gingrich,
who gives Sanford advice on health care. "The Ford Foundation is the
example of the worst thing that could happen," says Sanford.

The Nonprofiteer agrees with Sanford–and thus apparently with Gingrich; alert the media!–that a foundation’s ability to exist in perpetuity isn’t what makes it valuable.  But she wonders whether Sanford, and especially historian Gingrich, would truly prefer a Ford Foundation devoted to publishing lies about history and alarmist nonsense about an imaginary worldwide Zionist Occupation Government to one captive to the staff’s weirdo ‘cultural values’ like, oh, seeking to "advance achievement in the arts, education and scholarship."  (See the Foundation’s site for details.)  Maybe Sanford and his consigliere should contemplate that question before they announce that creating an institution like Ford is "the worst . . . that could happen."

4. The Bronfman award itself, which recognizes accomplished young Jews, interests the Nonprofiteer very little.  On the other hand, if she’d been
subject to the kind of attacks the Bronfmans have had to
tolerate, she might also have decided that trumpeting "Jewish values" and fostering
appreciation of members of the Jewish community was philanthropy’s most important



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