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August 7, 2010; Source: New York Times | It should be no surprise that a billionaire politician and philanthropist is prone to play politics with his philanthropic giving.  In October of 2008, George McDonald, the president of the Doe Fund, was one of some 20 staff members of the homeless services and advocacy group to testify in favor of changing the term limits for mayor in New York City to allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg to serve a third term.  Recent Doe Fund documents and e-mails reveal that Bloomberg’s charitable arms have regularly given millions to the organization since he was elected mayor—including $10 million on the heels of the October 2008 term limits hearing ($5 million a couple of weeks after the hearing and another $5 million after the Mayor took officer in term #3).  In addition to publicly disclosed giving, there was another $11 million in anonymous donations to the Doe Fund which the Mayor’s spokesperson refused to acknowledge or deny as the Mayor’s money, and the Doe Fund refused to comment entirely.

Bloomberg has long been criticized for using a portion of his philanthropic giving to curry electoral support, but Douglas Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, declared the grantmaking to the Doe Fund as “probably no clearer example of how Mike Bloomberg uses his immense private wealth for public power in a fashion that is unprecedented not only at the city level but at the state and national levels as well.”  The two $5 million personal gifts from Bloomberg are the Doe Fund’s largest individual donations ever.  Potential mayoral candidate Congressman Anthony Weiner, called the mayor’s timely philanthropic generosity as “right up to the line of coercion, and it’s very corrosive.”  Weiner added, “if you rely on the mayor or the administration to fund your organization, saying no when the mayor calls is not an option.”  The Nonprofit Quarterly has long found philanthropic giving controlled by politicians, even if it is their personal wealth, to be a toxic combination.  Despite his Teflon style of governing, Mayor Bloomberg style of philanthropy is sometimes disturbingly questionable.—Rick Cohen