Foundation Friday: “Who pays?” isn’t always the relevant question

The story about the lung cancer study paid for by cigarette manufacturers seems to be a familiar one about undue influence by funders, with a familiar moral: "Don’t take money from those wicked tobacco companies!"  But in fact, as our brother blogger (and actual brother) at The Reality-Based Community points out, the real scandal lies in the fact that the author holds a patent on the machine whose virtues the study claims to prove, a fact she failed to disclose and one which would raise questions about the results even if they’d been paid for by Saint Peter.

Often the debate among charities about whose money is acceptable suggests the exchange in Gone With The Wind between Scarlett and Melanie when bordello madam Belle Watling offers a generous contribution to the Confederate hospital: "Oh, we don’t want her money," says Scarlett.  The Nonprofiteer, though otherwise a Scarlett partisan, sides with Melanie on this one: accept the donation and honor the donor, whether or not you approve of how he made his fortune.  She doesn’t notice anyone disdaining Gates Foundation money just because a big chunk of it came from violating the antitrust laws.  As Belle herself says, "You might as well take my money, Miz Wilkes. It’s good money even if it is mine."


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