Giving for Politics Feed

Catherine Austin Fitts on Goldman Sachs' Philanthropy in the Context Of....

Catherine Austin Fitts, a former Director of Dillon Read and Assistant Secretary of HUD, allows herself to speculate a bit on Goldman Sachs' Philanthropy.

What do you think? Does it make sense, for Goldman to invest say 1% of their profits (app. $4 billion plus) to finance philanthropy that promotes their image as a fine citizen and to fund campaigns and lobbying efforts designed to:

  • get Goldman alums appointed to high government and central bank positions
  • switch market management and regulation under the control of a private bank they and their global colleagues secretly own and control
  • make sure that the flow of insider information to their operations and affiliates remains secret
  • make sure they are allowed to build and control shadow markets with government resources

Would this not be the ultimate leveraged buyout? Buying a whole country with the country’s own money and putting yourself in charge?

More on Goldman's philanthropy in the NYTimes. The Chronicle on Hank Paulson's giving here.

Endow A Fool (Insert My Picture Here)

As hundreds of billions of sub-prime loans were packaged and sold, ending up in pension plans, mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance company reserves, or assets backing savings accounts, who will be holding the empty bag once all this is marked to market? Not just the intermediaries who were holding these flawed investments in inventory or for their own account, but all the schmucks and investment advisors who went by the ratings these mispriced investments carried.  Still, if you are the CEO of a huge investment firm who gets fired, the news is not all bad. From such ranks we might recruit a new President, a State Attorney General, or a big time philanthropist. Catherine Austin Fitts lays it out in a list of links. My favorite such moral story is that of the man who headed up a sub prime lending company, made a big donation to Bush and is now Ambassador to the Netherlands.  Either Clinton would have done the same, probably. As the Emperor Vespasian said of the toilet tax, Pecunia non olet, "Money has no smell."

Could someone please endow a team of Satirists in white Emergency Vehicles, making house calls on Wall Street and in DC? We stage interventions for the mental health of unimportant people. Who will intervene among those who rule us? What investment for political return, what philanthropic initiative to heal the body politic, could have a bigger bang for the buck than a team of Clowns taking America's ruling elite away in straightjackets? Once safely in the asylum we could begin the long slow process of healing.  At times the cure may seem to the patient worse than the disease, but the main thing is that the disease itself not be allowed spread. Speaking of corruption, the Italians say, "the fish rots from the head down." We must extirpate the corruption among our elite lest it infect the whole. Philanthropy won't do it, politics is too sick to cure itself. Big business is in cahoots. That leaves the Satirists. I am happy to do what I can but I am fed up with doing it all pro bono publico in a Dumpster. I at least want a bounty for every politician or CEO I bag and cure.

Experts at Hudson - What is Their Role?

Schambra, at Hudson Institute, on philanthropy as civic virtue:   

Scientific philanthropy considers itself to be a detached problem solver, funding experts to track down root causes. Civic renewal philanthropy considers itself to be a catalyst of civic engagement, helping to complete the Founding by cultivating democratic self-governance and the moral and civic virtues it requires. Our times demand a philanthropy that prefers citizen over expert.

Click here to "Find an Expert" at Hudson.  Bill, civic renewal philanthropy does not fund experts. Who, then, funds these experts and why?

The Pirate Party

Well, my word. I had always known the Happy Tutor headed up a kind of Dumpster Commune, but I had never realized that the man is a  communist. But, I heard him raving naked today on the street, like some cut-rate Diogenes, and I managed to record these choice bits. Beware! This man is crazy. Do not let anyone near him,  lest they fall beneath his spell.  As handsome a man as he is, and as charismatic, his words are like those of Satan, going straight to the heart, but only to deceive and inveigle us to our doom.

"Friends hold all in common," so goes a Greek proverb. The opposite of such a commons is private ownership of not only tangible and personal property, but of intangibles as well, the thoughts, songs, fables, art that we create as a culture and that defines us as human. By joining the Pirate Party and donating generously, you can help reverse our slide into an Ownership Society. Pirates either way, you say. And you would be right. But to restore a gift culture will take more than social ventures and trickle down philanthropy.  Down with patents,  copyrights, and  corporate invasion of our privacy.  Friends hold all in common.  Community is built on love, not mine and thine. Jesus said as much, as did Aristotle: caritas, philia.

Some will think fit to respond that without ownership people will not create. But that is as foolish as to argue that without prostitution people will not procreate. The truly creative create and think not for your filthy lucre, but for the sheer joy of tearing your house down. Those who Think in a Tank will persist in their Folly, but they are not thinkers in any real sense. They are hirelings going about their Master's business. You do that long enough and you become a slave in their Ownership Society.

When you give to a Think Tank, whether of the Right or the Left, you give for the death of the human spirit. Support our Pirates,  and unshackle the holy ghost from this rampant materialism.

Well, unlike Tutor, I am getting somewhere in my career. I heard last week from Dr. Amy Kass at Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society that an essay of mine is to be included in a book on philanthropy that she is editing. Also included are, among others, Shakespeare and Tolstoy. I have always found, Tutor, that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Tell the rich funders what they want to hear and you will do alright. Then maybe Dr. Kass will put you in a book with your pals Jesus, Socrates, Diogenes, Rabelais, Swift, Gay, and Wilde.  Until then, you can sit on your bags of garbage and hold forth. No one listens to a loser.

As for me, I am doing well by doing good with a double bottom line, one for society and one for me. It is a win/win situation. Self-sacrifice for the public weal is for martyrs. Get with the program, Tutor. Get two bottomlines,  and gets your's first.  No one is going to look out for you in the Ownership Society, so you had better look out for yourself.  The Pirate Party is under surveillance as trouble-makers.  Better to go with the flow of human history, extract profit wherever you can, whatever the social cost, and maybe some day you can be a philanthropist too.  God loves a winner.  Adam Smith said so.  This is advanced capitalism, Tutor: Plunder, yes; Piracy, no.  Steal from the poor, but not the rich.

Madmunk on Philanthropic Legitimacy

Madmunk is back. Here is a nugget from his rousing post on Frumkin's new book on philanthropy and the discussion of that book at Hudson.

Every grant is a new social contract, and I hope that given the choice between creating a strategy and creating a community, donors will opt for creating community by inviting them to participate in their strategic giving. That way, philanthropic legitimacy has a better chance of being assured....

What social contract, then, binds Hudson Institute, for example, to the Commonweal?  I guess in a real world polity, the idea is to set the knaves, funded with philanthropic dollars, against one another in the hope that out of such tumult comes stalemate, if nothing worse.  On that basis, I can see contributing to the New Progressive Coalition or  Democracy Alliance.  What seems missing from the logic model legitimizing Think Tanks as an institution is not the funding of Frick and the funding of Frack by warring wealthy people and corporations, but the lack of representation of (as Bush calls them) the "non-rich" in the creation, funding, and promulgation of think-tank generated political ideology.  Without a broader range of support, I would think we might well conclude that the very existence of Think Tanks paid for by the rich of either party is a throbbing carbuncle on the proud face of Lady Liberty, an abscess that must be excised, by a knife that cuts deep, not to wound but to cure. Surely, someone will fund the Satirist? I would hate to think we would have to work pro bono publico out of a Dumpster behind The Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, for crying out loud. You want to renew civil society? Turn out the hacks and let them write for nothing.  If they have something to say, of importance to them or the polity, let them get a real job in some corporate cubicle, and blog in the evenings like a self-respecting citizen.  But if you took away the funding, you know darn well they wouldn't write this stuff for pleasure. It must cost them their very soul. Why would they do it for love of the work, or love of their country? So the dollars and nonsense flow on both sides. What legitimizes it? Ten dollars a word.

The Democracy Alliance

Big $$$ for Progressive Politics, from the Nation.

The same topics that are off-limits in the Democratic Party--US policy on Israel, the bloated military budget, the role of big money in both parties, the grip of corporations--are shunned by the Alliance.

Interesting to see in the article that Drummond Pike of Tides was elected to the Board. I would hope he will push for something a bit more democratic than this putative alliance for democracy funded by fat cats.  A take on Democracy Alliance here from Martin Kearns (one very smart and dedicated man) at Network Centric Advocacy.

Who Rules?

I found this a truly fascinating profile on The Philanthropy Roundtable posted at Right Web.

The offices of the Philanthropy Roundtable are found in the Washington, DC building that is also the home of such prominent neoconservative institutes and publications as the Weekly Standard, Project for the New American Century, and American Enterprise Institute. The Roundtable and the Project for the New American Century are closely connected, especially through their common connections to the Bradley Foundation and revolving door patterns of employment.

As you read through the profile you see how wealth, political power, public policy formation, punditry, media, and business are not so much separate sectors but different spheres of influence maintained at the highest levels by friends and friends of friends who move from one sphere of influence to another, building a resume, a network and a movement.  I am sure this has always been so, but gives pause to those of us who think of democracy as a matter of we the people.  In the context of this closed world, I suppose I can understand why William Schambra, funded by Bradley at Hudson is upset that Bill Gates has so much philanthropic money to give here and abroad. To me Gates is an insider, but his having been photographed with Bill Clinton may be giving Schambra concern.  It is not a question of whether the rich rule, but which rich people, I guess.  At election time we get to pick the rich person's candidate who best fits our image of ourselves. This one does NASCAR, that one like tacos, or whatever.  This one goes to Church and blows up toads with firecrackers. That one like yachts and tennis and is so polite it hurts. Either way, we are well represented assuming we are CEOs or heirs, or just plain fools.  My personal political return on investment has been pretty much nil, but I assume I could get what I want if I had more to invest.  I am going to return old soda bottles until I have enough to, as we say, "make a difference."  What would it cost, I wonder, to get big money out of politics? Pew tried, and Schambra didn't like that either.  Big money, in his view, should stick up for big money, as he does.  Wooster, of Capital Research Center, concurs. Even Fortune 100 corporations, according to Capital Research Center, can't be trusted to give their money for arch-conservative causes.

Well, maybe we need a transpartisan network of givers to broaden the base of philanthropy and to introduce a broader range of ideas, ideals, and agendas into the mix? Quite an interestingly diverse  steering committee at Reuniting America.  I notice too that they plan to open conversations around the country. I propose as a topic the role of wealth in public policy formation.