April 20, 2010; Detroit Free Press | The lead says it all: “Ten years after it was established, the controversial Kilpatrick Civic Fund is broke.” We have reported frequently about charities and foundations established by politicians that have been used for sometimes less charitable, more political purposes.
Disgraced, indicted, jailed former Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, has his version of political charities, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, which paid for some of his personal and family fundraising “trips” that became one of the topics behind his journey from city hall to jail. A judge said the former mayor could tap the Civic Fund to help repay the $1 million he owes the City of Detroit for misspending public dollars. We don’t quite get that, since the Civic Fund was a nonprofit, not a Kilpatrick family bank account.
But between 2007 and 2008, some $222,000 disappeared from the Fund, leaving a balance of $2,467. So let’s talk to the president of the Civic Fund and ask what happened. Oops, the head of the fund is Kilpatrick’s sister, Ayanna, who declined to talk to the Detroit Free Press. Ayanna might not have been the most penurious of nonprofit leaders. When the foundation was located at Detroit’s Renaissance Center, it paid no rent, but after it moved to Ayanna’s home, the rent and utilities bill climbed to $43,115 (on top of the $32,728 Ayanna received as salary).
Over the years, the regulators have seemed to avoid issues we’ve raised many times about political foundations—examples where people with municipal business interests made substantial gifts to the Civic Fund and (surprise!) they won generous city contracts through the Mayor. They also appear to have let the Civic Fund’s inability to provide detail on the bulk of its grant distributions slide. It’s now long past time for the feds to ask Ayanna Kilpatrick and Kwame Kilpatrick to fully account for the moneys donated to their civic “charity.”—Rick Cohen