Billionaires, Big Jesus, And Barry

If you go to the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation Facebook page, you’ll find this description of the “Non-Profit Organization”:

A charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement.

And you can find this nice article in the Tulsa World about the “non-profit” group:

George Kaiser Family Foundation gives $7.2 M to area nonprofits

The newspaper story quotes Ken Levit, Executive Director of the foundation:

Organizations in Tulsa are working hard to help meet the needs of many Tulsans who struggle to obtain basic needs and other critical services. The foundation is pleased to present these Social Services Safety Net 2012 year-end grants to assist organizations as they serve more individuals and families throughout the community.

All very nice stuff, no? I mean, helping to break the cycle of poverty, helping those who “struggle to obtain basic needs and other critical services”? Who could be against that? What a great guy this Kaiser fella must be. And by the way, he was a big fundraiser for Obama during his first presidential run. What a guy.

But then you can read a Bloomberg article today with this headline:

Billionaire Kaiser Exploiting Charity Loophole With Boats


One of the richest folks on the planet, who went to public schools in Tulsa, graduated from Harvard Bidness School, then returned to Oklahoma to work for his father in the oil bidness, George Kaiser has more money than God.

Okay, okay. At least he has more money than that 900-foot-tall Jesus who, reportedly, once told the late Tulsa evangelist Oral Roberts that he would see to it the faith preacher would have enough dough to build a City of Faith Medical and Research Center in Tulsa. And, guess what? The hospital was built and remained opened for eight years. It seems Big Jesus had the bucks to get it up and running, but didn’t have Kaiser-ish money to keep it going.

But I digress, even though Oral Roberts’ account of seeing Big Jesus seems much more honest than what Kaiser, at least according to Bloomberg, has been doing:

At least $1.25 billion of the charity’s $3.4 billion in assets is invested in ways that benefit Kaiser’s for-profit endeavors, according an analysis of the George Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2011 tax return by Bloomberg News. The charity invests alongside the billionaire’s stakes in some companies. In other instances, it directs funds in ways that support his for- profit businesses, such as the Excellence, which provides guaranteed shipping capacity.

“There are very wealthy people who play by the rules and others who don’t, who use public charities to further their business interests,” said Pablo Eisenberg, senior fellow at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute. “One of the problems is the laws are so vague as to be absent of any serious regulation by the IRS or any state’s attorney general. Almost anything goes.”

Ouch. You can get more details from the article on how all this stuff works, much of it way over my head, and quite likely way over the head of our 900-foot-tall Jesus. But suffice it to say that the rich, as we say here on this blog all the time, are really, really different from you and me. And it’s not just that they play by a strange set of rules that don’t apply to the rest of us, it’s also that, well, I’ll just let a commenter on the article, going by the name of “jmzf,” explain  it:

The billionaires claim it’s perfectly legal and they should know since they paid the lobbyists to put it in the tax code, had their people draft the legislation and then contributed to lawmakers’ campaigns to get it passed.  Charity has been perverted here to benefit the billionaires, not the needy.

Again, ouch!

And in the comment section, I found other interesting takes, like this one from “gotohealth”:

Whether a market or state managed economy, excessive concentration of wealth never ends well for all concerned. Foundation scams, off-shores and prostrating vulgar politicians appear to be at an all-time high. The rabid pursuit of the least costly means of production is the fatal flaw in capitalism. Maybe not yet for management, but their redemption time will come.

None of us breathing now will likely live long enough to know if that prediction will come true, but it certainly describes the way I feel about it. And speaking of feelings, another commenter on the story had a decidedly different opinion:

Henry Miller:

Good for these people. Starve the Obama/Soetero beast.

Ah. It has been a while since I’ve come across that “Obama/Soetero” connection (it’s actually “Soetoro,” as in Barry Soetoro, but birther conspiracists don’t worry much about getting the spelling right), but it’s good that old Henry Miller used it because at least we know where he’s coming from, as another commenter demonstrated:

Benjamin Dover in reply to Henry Miller 

Oh, your mother must be so proud, Henry.  You have grown into a tool for the 1%, a Stepinfetchit for the modern age, a waterboy for the Kaisers & Romneys of the world.  Who do you imagine wrote and lobbied for the laws that allow people like Kaiser to create a fake “charity”, donate (& take tax deductions) for money given, and then have the “charity” use that money to support his own businesses?  It is theft, plain and simple, and the other 99% pay for it.  But you have no problem with that.  They say ignorance is bliss … you are clearly one of the most blissful people around!

And speaking of bliss, all of us can happily go about our day knowing that there are gazillionaires out there who are making names for themselves as big donors to Democrats and as big-time philanthropists and, as is the American way, figured out how to do all that and make a buck to boot!

What a country!


george kaiser



  1. angelfire

     /  May 3, 2013

    You cannot live in the 7th district and not know the pure hatred the conservative has for the poor. Of course they won’t admit to the hatred as most attend a christian church and that type of dialogue is reserved for “off the record” moments between spouses and close friends.

    The wealthy control everything. Everything. Why don’t they just kill the poor like other countries do? Listen to the way they say the word ‘welfare’ or ‘food stamps’ and you know they have nothing but contempt and hatred for anyone not wealthy. They hate the working class and they hate the poor. So why not? Maybe some biological thing or some chemical thing—like with 911 when the rich and the important got calls telling them not to fly that day the conservatives could warn the most wealthy and the most important to flee an area that was about to be ‘wiped out’ or fatally infected. Hmmm. Gosh, maybe I should not give them ideas. But then we would be naive to believe they don’t dream of this very scenario.

    I hope the real Jesus save us.


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  May 4, 2013

    Frankly, Duane,

    I was trying to understand the point of this blog, other than a simple Billionaires are all bad people. Actually, with only about 400 of them (Billionaires) worldwide, I suppose a lot of Millionaires fall into that category as well. Combine the two and you are close to the 1% (about 3 million souls, very rich souls) that you believe are collectively destroying America and simply walking all over the other 99%. Sure sounds like a good OWS sign to carry around with you.

    Yesterday the Dow went over 15,000 points, a first for sure. Is that all bad for America? I wonder how well your pension fund did with that financial achievement? Think any 99%ers might have made a few buck yesterday as well? You can bet your bippy that the 1%ers did well, for sure. But that of course is not good at all for America, right?

    You as a union activist have long railed against the 1%ers and your commenters jump on that bandwagon all the time, waving their arms along with you. People with a lot of money are simply BAD for America, you all say. Does George Sorros fall into that category as well? Of course he must, along with all the money given by him to liberal causes. But I also suppose Sorros is NOT AS BAD as say the local Humprehies family because they give a lot of money to Libertarian causes for sure, and some GOPers as well.

    You know what I would really like to hear is a carefully considered set of policies that will take all that money, or most of if, away from the 1%ers and do it following normal American paths of taxation, managing charitable foundations, keeping government hands off most religious institutions (fake or real as the case may be), etc.

    For example, should some set of laws simply disallow the ability to make money over a certain limit, when a man or group reach a limit the rest of any of those earnings just go to……..? Well WHAT, exactly, should all of that excess money go TO, I wonder? And given such a “law”, why would ANYONE be incentivized to make “more” money than that arbitrary limit set by YOU or your crowd?

    I always believed that part of the American Dream was the “sky is the limit”. If a man, woman or organization worked hard enough and smart enough then let’r rip. Sure they must do so legally and most of them do exactly that, make a lot of money legally. I for sure am ready to support prosecution of rich crooks, just like you. But Kaiser is NOT a crook, from all that I have read about him.

    So to achieve your goals of income redistribution, legally, a bunch of laws must be changed or new ones put into place, right? Well what are they, exactly and how do you suggest that we democratically achieve such a new set of laws? Just how high do you suggest the “top bracket” become for income taxes, just how big a percentage of earnings should go to Medicare and SS, and the list of tax and policy questions goes on and on.

    Kaiser has several $Billion stashed away somewhere and that pot probably grows each and every year, good times and bad ones, if he is a good financial manager. Just how much do you want to take away from him, where should a “few more $ Million (or is it $ Billions) go each year”, and how will that extra money going to wherever be USED each and every year, effectively, I wonder?

    Here is a general thought for you. In one of my recent blogs on education I have endorsed reading to kids, a lot, as a way to improve education. Parents should READ to their youngsters, a lot, but many do not so, particularly the “poor” folks. Well go find some “extra” money and give every “working class or poor” family an extra $1,000 a year. And demand, through the force of government that every cent of that money go ONLY to the cost and effort to READ TO THEIR KIDS, each and every day, GOOD books, books that strengthen the “values” of those kids. THEN MAKE those kids READ BACK what they have learned and show progress improving their own LEARNED VALUES, values that enhance “The American way (or dream)”

    Pick the right books, inspire and challenge all kids to read them and learn from them and then sit back and watch education in America improve. If you put an EFFECTIVE program like that in place, I bet the Humphrehies and Kaisers would GIVE a ton of money to such a program. In fact the Humphrehies already DO THAT by GIVING a ton of money to the Thomas Jefferson School. Anything wrong with about $10 Million GIVEN to TJ over the last few years to build a bigger and better institution of learning that is the best one by far in Joplin??

    But guess what Duane? You and I would not even agree on the READING LIST for all kids, probably, much less a way to effectively channel any “extra money” into an EFFECTIVE reading program for every kid in Joplin, alone. Nope, you would probably call for using that extra money to raise the salaries of all teachers, so many of them could make more money sitting behind their desks scanning away on their cell phones while the class “goofs off” all around them.

    MONEY is NOT the problem. It is HOW THE MONEY IS USED that keeps kicking America in the butt, year by year, at least when it is “government money” which is a stupid term in the first place. It is YOUR MONEY AND MY MONEY, not the “government’s”

    Just how long do you think Sorros would sit still if he gave Dems $500 Million and it all went to “Solyndra” (like things) or to “no load teachers” that do little at all to actually TEACH anything of value, real value to our kids (and grand kids). Go walk the halls of JHS and just WATCH what goes on or for that matter read No Child Left Alive, if you will!!!



  3. I have long been aware that the charity business is exploited by the rich. Woven throughout the Gordian knot of our gargantuan tax code, big charity provides an entree into business connections, a splice to the public persona, and a sop to the conscience. Meanwhile, behind the scenes the rich relentlessly pursue the real means to wealth, exploiting the greatest amount of labor from the poor while minimizing pay and benefits. We are in the new Gilded Age, and one needs look no further for evidence than current headlines, e.g., the recent collapse of the huge clothing complex in Bangladesh. The industry there, which supplies garb to the luxury and ordinary markets, is said to be worth $20 Billion a year while the workers are paid bare subsistence wages and no benefits, and work slave hours in dangerous unregulated conditions. What a business model!

    I get a weird feeling saying these things. Hell, I served my country in uniform for 22 years while thinking I was protecting capitalism as well as democracy, a way of life that promised opportunity for all. Now I feel that promise slipping away as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. What the hell happened to our dream?


  4. ansonburlingame

     /  May 4, 2013

    Ah, a new “gilded age”? Let’s see Rockafellow is to Kaiser, as ……….? Railroads are to computers as …………? The only thing I really know is a dollar then is worth about 10 cents today, or less. I wonder why?

    When (and where) Jim and I grew up millionaries were a very rare breed, for sure. MAYBE we had ONE in my small farming community back then, but I’m not sure, a REAL millionaire. Dad paid $6,000 for my childhood home. Today it would cost about $400,000, the same home, just remodeled on the inside, a few times. For someone to buy that home today, well they would have to be “close to” being a millionaire to afford it, today.

    Further, on a national level, I would suspect the number of Billiionaires today would be akin to the number of Millionaires, nationally back in the late 50’s. I’m not sure about that, but……

    There have ALWAYS been 1%ers, being my point. Statistically there HAS to be, a top 1% and bottom 1% as well, ALWAYS. When I worked over one Christmas vacation in a tobacco warehouse, a cold, dank place pushing 700 lbs. baskets of tobacco around, I worked with some very poor souls doing that manual labor and making about 50 cents an hour just like I did at age 12 or so. Same in the summer, baling hay or cutting tobacco, for the same 50 cents an hour. $5 Bucks was BIG money for me and many others, back then, a days work if you will, hard work.

    The lesson I learned at a very young age, and my father wanted me to learn it, well, was I did not WANT to have to be a manual laborerer when I “grew up”. I wouldn’t want my grand kids to do so today, either. But IF they did so, work, professionally as a manual laborer, I would expect them to give it their best shot, each and every day. And IF they did so, work hard, my guess is they would not have a career as a manual laborerer, either. And today the color of their skin would have NOTHING to do with such choices, today.

    But go ahead and moan about a new gilded age, if that makes you happy. DOING something constructive and fairly to prevent such is what I seek, but never find, herein at least.



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