Philanthrogate? Philanthropy on the Presidential Stump

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It’s hard to keep track of the presidential candidates without a scratch sheet. You have to know who’s in the race, their starting gate positions, whether they run well on turf, in the mud, their times in longer and shorter races, and past finishes. Of course, presidential candidates aren’t tortured like race horses which are treated with Lasix for bleeding in the lungs and medications for pain and inflammation as they run long and repeated races. Nor are many presidential candidates likely to incur campaign-related injuries requiring them to be euthanized.

Our political take on the contenders is strictly nonpartisan. But candidates’ involvement with nonprofits, particularly their sometimes sloppy and cynical use of nonprofits in pursuit of their singular political careers, deserves the light of day. For this reason, beginning with this Cohen Report, the Nonprofit Quarterly will run a series of balanced, no-holds-barred reviews of the candidates’ nonprofit connections.

These connections are — or should be — of serious concern given past experience with high-profile misuse of politicians’ charities by the likes of Rick Santorum, Bill Frist, Alan Mollohan, and other sitting members of Congress, not to mention philanthropic relationships with the likes of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Nonprofits are continually admonished to stay free of partisan politics. This should apply doubly to politicians themselves, who should abjure the surreptitious and overt use of nonprofits for partisan ends.

It would take up too much space to report on all of the nonprofit connections and implications of the presidential candidates all at once. Instead, we plan to take on a couple of presidential candidates at a time, providing a window with what they’re doing with their own nonprofit connections, and elaborating on what this might imply if they were in the position to, for example: appoint the new head of the Smithsonian Institution; place members on the board of the American Red Cross; set standards for the nonprofit sector; and more importantly, if what they might do if elected to govern this nation. In this CR , we take a look at Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards, with a brief excursion into Ron Paul’s nonprofit experience.

Just to keep the conversation going, we include some short takes updating issues — Hank Greenberg, Fannie Mae, etc. — that have been covered in recent CRs (and in a couple of Cohen articles in the print edition of Nonprofit Quarterly). Let us know what you think we should be looking at. Let us know what you know. Thanks.