Financial Problems May Have Led to Couple’s Deaths

Aug 21, 2009; NBC | Following up on yesterday’s people- and housing-focused Newswire, from Virginia comes sad evidence of the very real human effects of this problem.  —Ruth McCambridge

Giving Charity a Bad Name
Aug 18, 2009; NY Daily News | The ongoing scandal at the New York City City Council feeding local earmarks to pet nonprofits, often those that they, their staff, and their family members controlled, promoted this Daily News columnist to divide bad groups involved in these scams from “bona fide” groups that happen to stumble into them. His contention is that the unknown groups associated with the likes of Pedro Espada aren’t legit, but the United Jewish Council is a bona fide group even though, as his column reveals, its behavior is no less politically scummy.  After lots of denials by its leadership, it appears that the UJC has long known its political quid pro quo for getting support from City Council members such as East Side councilmember Alan Gerson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  The routine seems to have gone on for years, as this excerpt from the Daily News article details:

The nursing director of UJC’s home health program, Renee Abramowitz, testified that she found petitions for Gerson, Silver, William Thompson and other Democratic candidates sitting on her desk at work one morning and knew exactly what to do. ‘I have done this many years,’ Abramowitz said under oath. ‘So I know when the sheet’s on my desk, I just go out and I volunteer to do signatures.’ Also suggestive was her statement that she left the filled-out petitions on the desk of her boss at UJC, Howard Fried.

To think that a group that gets a $2.3 annual earmark from Shelly Silver plays the political game is hardly controversial.  The part of the article that disturbs is the idea that because it’s the UJC, it’s bona fide, while nonprofits in the Bronx linked to Espada and others aren’t. No, if they’re screwing around, the well-known name of UJC doesn’t convey automatic credibility.  —Rick Cohen

Donations Go “Clunk”

Aug 25, 2009; SF Gate | The much-discussed “Cash for Clunkers” program ended yesterday.  It lasted only a month, but nonprofits whose revenue streams include vehicle donation programs were feeling its results shortly after it began, as the video above indicates.  Some saw upwards of a 20% reduction in donations, begging the question — will the upcoming “Cash for Appliances” have a similar impact?  —James David Morgan