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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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!