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Ready money—A Baltimore nonprofit enables city officials to spend with little oversight
Oct 25, 2009; The Baltimore Sun | A Baltimore Sun investigation has found the city has misused funds from its Baltimore City Foundation. The Foundation purportedly raises funds to spend on community-improving projects. Their 2008 990 shows the organization receiving $3.4 million in contributions in that one year and spending twice that, and still leaving them with a fund balance of more than $7m. The money isn’t insignificant. The Sun’s investigation has found that some of the Foundation’s funds go to projects having little or nothing to do with the foundation’s tax-exempt purposes. Foundation accounts serve as a repository through which money for city projects can accumulate and be spent without public scrutiny normally afforded governmental agencies. It also appears that some donations credited as nonprofit contributions were spent for political purposes. Even as an entity controlled by politicians, its 501(c)(3) status allows limited transparency, which suits politicians’ needs just fine. Contributors can make contributions to play up to controlling members of the mayor’s office or city council, essentially lobbying them or trading favors without having to disclose the connection. So where’s the oversight? Not from the City Foundation’s funders. From 2004-2008 (incomplete), the Annie Casey Foundation gave the organization more than $300,000 and the Weinberg Foundation gave them $1.55 million, including $1.26 million just in 2008 alone. One might suggest that these oversight-conscious foundations have exercised somewhat deficient oversight, wouldn’t you say?—Aaron Lester
The Influence Game: Bill Gates’ sway on ed policy
Oct 26, 2009; AP | The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is offering states $250,000 to help with applications for federal funding if the state agrees with Gates’ and the Obama Administration’s approach to education reform. Both the Gates Foundation and the Administration believe in some slightly controversial issues: teacher pay based on student test scores, among other measures of achievement; charter schools that operate independently of local school boards; and a set of common academic standards adopted by every state-according to the Associated Press—Kristin Barrali
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