Mission Drift in Charitable Trusts

Much has been written about 2nd and 3rd generation trustees leading charitable trusts in completely different directions from the intentions of their original founder / donor.  These charitable trusts seem to, over time, become reflective of the goals and philosophy of a fairly closed caste of, lacking a better word, non-profit-runners.  Their typically leftish, Eastern, urban outlook is sometimes bizarrely at odds with the trust's founding intentions and mission.

Here is one that caught my eye:  Bill McKibben is known as a global warming crusader, via his 350.org (the 350 refers to the fact that they feel the world was safe at 349 ppm CO2 but was headed for ruin at 351 ppm).  But if you hear him speak, as my son did at Amherst, he sounds more alike a crusader against fossil fuels rather than against just global warming per se.  I am left with the distinct impression that he would be a passionate opponent of fossil fuel consumption even if there were no such thing as greenhouse gas warming.

Anyway, the thing I found interesting is that most of his anti-fossil fuel work is funded by a series of Rockefeller family trusts.  I am not privy to the original founding mission of these trusts, but my suspicion is that funding a campaign to paint producers of fossil fuels as outright evil, as McKibben often does, is a pretty bizarre use of money for the Rockefeller family.

In contrast to McKibben, I have argued that John D. Rockefeller, beyond saving the whales, did as much for human well-being as any person in the last two centuries by driving down the cost and increasing the quality, safety, and availability of fuels.   Right up there with folks like Norman Borlaug and Louis Pasteur.

  • sean2829

    I've always argued that environmentalists are useful foot soldiers for oil interests because big oil no longer has oil reserves, it has gas reserves. They know that the push to eliminate fossil fuels won't happen for a long time but you can economically substitute natural gas for coal at today's prices. Oil companies using environmentalists to mandate more sales of their products makes perfect sense if you are an oil company.

  • marque2

    The environmentalists were only for natural gas when they thought we were running out - and then they bemoaned our inability to use such a wonderful fuel (circa 2003.)

    Now that there is a glut, they are against it.

    A lot of the funding for the anti-oil/anti-gas/anti-keystone crowd comes from Russia and to a lesser extent the middle east. Russia in particular does not want us exporting NG to Europe and cutting their margins so they are paying for anti-fracking campaigns.

  • mesocyclone

    Some conservatives who endowed trusts set them up so they have to spend themselves out of existence before they go bad. This is a recognition of the nature of the creatures who end up running charitable organizations (religious ones somewhat exempt, although one notes that the big organization supposedly representing Catholic charities is at odds with specific and strong Church doctrines).

    The NGO/non-profit-trust/leftist-activist axis is very strong and unremitting. These results are hardly surprising.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    The Ford Foundation is similarly anti-capitalist, having deviated wildly from its founder's principles, arguably the greatest capitalist in US history (outside of Rockefeller).

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    Warren Buffett’s trusts will morph into free market capitalist ventures.

  • LarryGross

    you boys are a HOOT! Don't ya'll believe that back in the day - ya'll would have been the same folks who OPPOSED saving the whales?

    you are the same guys all along. you basically believe what you want whether it's about whales being threatened with extinction or global warming.

    back in the day, the opposition to these "leftist" charitable trusts believed that those who say whales were threatened were fostering a HOAX to thwart businesses who benefited from hunting whales - and the opposition (guys like you) argued that we'd never run out of whales - that it was a hoax cooked up by "evil" people to put legitimate people out of business.

    Don't ya'll see yourselves?

    Warren said this: "But if you hear him speak, as my son did at Amherst, he sounds more alike a crusader against fossil fuels rather than against just global warming per se."

    does Warren not see that the people who do believe in global warming believe that it is directly caused by burning fossil fuels? They are not opposed to fossil fuels just to be opposed to them - they think they are the root cause of global warming - and it goes without saying - except apparently folks like Warren - if you don't actually say it - either does not know or cannot see the connection himself.

    Capitalists who formed charitable trusts DID have a choice you know. They could have, instead, formed free market, "liberty" think tanks with their endowments but they did not. They formed Charitable Trusts - "leftist do-gooder" organizations ... to do things like saving the whales - even as the opponents of the day said there was no need to save the whales - that it was an evil hoax to deprive honest people their businesses...

    so NOW you guys pretend that back in the day when they were formed they were not "do-gooder" organizations but somehow they morphed into them?

    lord. lord.

    As I said, if these "capitalists" actually wanted to "defend liberty" and "foster free markets" then they would have formed think tanks instead, right?

    it's downright comical to see how these revisionist histories are concocted....

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    Larry, you seem to be getting increasingly flustered by your lack of knowledge.

    How do you manage to string sentences together which have no meaning?

    Could you please attempt to explain your point, if you have one, a little more clearly? Your post
    above is gibberish.

  • obloodyhell

    }}} Right up there with folks like Norman Borlaug and Louis Pasteur.

    Yeah, well, they didn't get filthy stinking evil RICH because they didn't make lots of filthy stinking evil MONEY from their efforts, did they?

    Ya gotta keep these things in postmodernist libtard perspective, donchaknow?

  • obloodyhell

    }}} Don't ya'll see yourselves?

    Not in the ignorant-yet-astoundingly-arrogant postmodernist view that you've swallowed thoughtlessly, hook-line-and-sinker, no, Larry.

    }}} does Warren not see that the people who do believe in global warming believe that it is directly caused by burning fossil fuels?

    FEH. they were against it long before some imbecile came up with AGW theories, and anyone who knows D-I-C-K§ would be aware of this.

    }}} Capitalists who formed charitable trusts DID have a choice you know.

    LOL, actually, no, since the purpose of these "charitable trusts" -- aka "tax free foundations" was put into law -- by them via their political pull -- before the Income Tax became the law of the land, so that they could AVOID PAYING INCOME TAX.

    In the vaguest sense of "income", you should net approximately 10% per year, over long time frames, in return based on your assets. So Warren Buffet, with assets of around 40 BILLION dollars should be clearing on the order of 4 BILLION dollars in income each year. Yet his "income taxes" are only about, what did he say, 15 million? Hardly sounds like the proper amount to be paying on FOUR BILLION DOLLARS, does it? Why, then, is he only paying 15 million!?!?!??

    Simple -- because MOST of his assets are in a TAX FREE FOUNDATION which he has pretty much full control over, and which provides him with all the BENEFITS of being insanely rich while not having to pay the INSANE TAXES that would result under the modern tax code.

    This simple FACT is absent from the world view of idiot OWS types like yourselves, Larry, because you can't grasp how it is that Buffet could speak out in favor of more income taxes and not fear income taxes at all. He LAUGHS at the astounding arrogance and ignorance of liberal twits. §§

    Most of the actions of these "leftist do gooder" TAX FREE FOUNDATIONS now operate against the interests of society by tearing away at the mechanisms that allow ANYONE to become rich and to prop up the privileges of the Power Elite which arrogant liberal twits§§ imagine they're attacking by supporting these hair-brained idiotic ideas that anyone with a BRAIN§ would laugh at for their abysmal stupidity.

    }}} so NOW you guys pretend that back in the day when they were formed they were not "do-gooder" organizations but somehow they morphed into them?

    LOL, not only were they never "do good" organizations, Larry, they still aren't doing good of any kind. They attack the very foundations of Western Civ like the suicidally cancerous meme they are.

    This will not "do good" -- EVER -- and will lead our great grandchildren into a new Dark Ages where they will curse the name of the imbeciles who destroyed everything good about civilization like brain-dead morons§.

    But you can BET that the power elite will be safe on their private islands with their private armies (armed with the latest full-auto "assault weapons" to protect them from any rabble-rousing group armed with pitch forks, mind you) and their own private "tools" that our ggrand-children won't be able to have, because mass production will have been destroyed by idiots§ who never, ever took their stupid lowing heads out of the feedbags for long enough to figure out where the conveyor belt they were put on was headed.

    }}} As I said, if these "capitalists" actually wanted to "defend liberty" and "foster free markets" then they would have formed think tanks instead, right?

    LOL, why the HELL would they have wanted to do this? They were rich bastards already, and the number of truly altruistic people out there is a very small percentage of them. A few did -- Carnegie, Nobel, etc. -- but it's pretty obvious when Nobel is handing out "peace prizes" to Arafat and Obama that they're pretty much no longer interested in the mission they were given by their named founder.

    ================================================

    § That would be "someone other than you, Larry"
    §§ That would be you, Larry

  • skhpcola

    "...ya'll would have been..."

    Not only are you an incomprehensible blowhard, you are an ignorant asspirate. Do you even know, or have the ability to discover, what "y'all" means? Ephtard.

  • LarryGross

    there is no way around the reality that hard core capitalists set up Charitable Trusts with mission statements about helping people - rather than instead setting up Capitalism Think Tanks.

    not one or two - but almost every capitalist - set up Charitable trusts like the Rockefeller whose mission statement says, in part: " .... pioneering philanthropic mission since 1913 to promote the well-being of humanity."

    The capitalists were also... philanthropists.... that's the truth.

  • LarryGross

    meso my man... if I was any more clear your tiny little head would explode into curse words... happened before you know...

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    That response made no sense either, imbecile.

    Judging from the accompanying annoyed responses below, I’d say a fair number of “us all” really aren’t impressed with your primitive pseudo-elitism.

    Please try again, as I am genuinely curious what your point above is….

  • Ron H.

    "They formed Charitable Trusts - "leftist do-gooder" organizations ... to
    do things like saving the whales - even as the opponents of the day
    said there was no need to save the whales - that it was an evil hoax to
    deprive honest people their businesses...
    "

    You know, Larry, I've got to say, you have a truly remarkable talent for attracting sharp, unpleasant responses to your comments at every blog you grace with your uninformed nonsense.

    There is little I can add at this late date, but I do have one question for you: Are you aware that the Rockefeller Trust didn't save the whales? JD *himself* saved them.

    Well, 2 questions then: Do you know how he did it?

    3 questions: Do you have anything to support your claim that there was any large number of people who believed that whales were an inexhaustible resource in the late 19th century?

  • mesocyclone

    Yeah, and that's not inconsistent with setting out goals to make sure the institutions don't act in ways the creators would consider not properly promoting well being - by supporting political causes that the founders would object to. I really doubt the Ford Foundation was endowed to do all the political dabbling it does now, for example.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    That used to be a nice "schtick"

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    Au contraire, sir Ron, you added a great many things.

  • LarryGross

    sure, ya'll... did you have anything intelligent to share or just wanted to foul the air ?

  • marque2

    On a similar note, Coal saved what few trees were left in England. And no I don't think it was because the coal folks were tree huggers, but the effect was the same. One resource was becoming scarce and humanity found a replacement resource which was not only more abundant but cheaper - which actually put tree fertilizer in the air to boot!

    Greed saves.

  • marque2

    " they were against it long before some imbecile came up with AGW theories, and anyone who knows D-I-C-K§ would be aware of this."

    Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding.

    Yes even in the 70's when we were suppose to be freezing to death, I not only learned, as "science" in school, that we were going to freeze to death, but it was the fault of those evil fossil fuels, and not only were they bad for producing cooling soot and aerosol - but we were running out of them to boot - hence the gas lines. It all made so much sense. No talk about artificial price controls causing shortages, and reducing new exploration, however.

  • marque2

    Another point - who says we are running out of oil? Oil has been growing leaps and bounds as well, hampered only by regulations keeping oil production off of federal land.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    Still waiting for your substantive contribution, Larry...

  • skhpcola

    That's an ironic response from a microencephalic reprobate who has negligible capacity for comprehending even simple concepts. Why are you intent on remaining an ignorant ephtard? When you have something intelligent to share, you must do it elsewhere, because you have never--not once--had anything substantive to share here. As Mesa or OBH has noted before, you are on the level of Muirego at Cafe Hayek...and that's a very low level, indeed. Be proud in your stupidity, grasshopper...you've earned that badge of shame!

  • LarryGross

    questions. questions. Ron. it's not me.. it turns out that folks who lean libertarian apparently cannot stand disagreement with their thinking even though much of it is bizarro...

    re: who saved the whales and why

    it does not matter who did - the point is there are "do-gooders" in the world and there are those who could give a rats asses about limited resources as long as they got their stuff.

    re: charitable trusts - the irony is that many if not most of them were formed by hard-core capitalists rather than those guys blowing off the idea of "helping" society and others - unlike the modern day libertarians who likely find such ideas totally repugnant rather than using that money for a "better" purpose than saving whales, protecting the environment or education.

  • LarryGross

    re: badge of shame - proudly worn in nests of Neanderthal nardos...

  • nehemiah

    As the young heirs to these trusts attend their Ivy League schools the professors focus their attention on them in a direct effort to co opt their views. If successful these foundations can be encouraged to fund progressive initiatives in time. The folks on the left are intelligent and methodical in their efforts to undermine traditional American values.

  • Ron H.

    Absolutely! As you correctly point out, burning coal works to return proper levels of CO2 to the atmosphere where it belongs, and where it existed in abundance prior to that freakish carboniferous period that caused so much carbon to be hidden away underground.

  • Ron H.

    "re: who saved the whales and why how

    it does not matter who did -".

    That's disappointing, Larry. That means: 1. "I don't know." 2. "I don't know how he did it." 3. No, I have nothing to support my claim about 'peak whales'."

    It IS important to understand how human ingenuity and innovation in the service of self interest have not only made made life better for all of us, but have reduced harm to the world around us as well.

    "re: charitable trusts - the irony is that many if not most of them were formed by hard-core capitalists rather than those guys blowing off the idea of "helping" society and others - unlike the modern day libertarians who likely find such ideas totally repugnant rather than
    using that money for a "better" purpose than saving whales, protecting the environment or education.
    "

    You should be aware that "hard core capitalist" isn't a dirty word, and that "hard core capitalist" and "helping others" are not mutually exclusive. There's no irony in someone like JD Rockefeller being a sincere philanthropist. Besides, what "better purpose" could you imagine for his talents and resources than creating greater prosperity and standard of living for millions by creating tens of thousands of jobs and economic growth, as well as producing a superior lamp fuel and other petroleum products at ever lower prices throughout his career?

  • bigmaq1980

    Did not know Mr Buffett has the bulk of his wealth in a tax free foundation. I did read about his annual 5% (of his wealth) contribution (since 2006) to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Mr. B is a controlling trustee). Therefore, I thought his wealth was mostly in BRK shares.

    Even still, assuming that his wealth were 100% in BRK, Mr. B could still be comfortable advocating tax hikes. Using BRK was (is?) a major tax advantaged vehicle for Mr. B over his investing lifetime. Had he been taxed on cap gains and dividends at regular income tax rates over that time (remember income based tax rates have come down dramatically over the last 30-40 years), as he seems to advocate (comparing the "unfairness" of his "lower" tax rate with his secretary's from vastly different sources of taxable income), he would be nowhere near as wealthy today. He benefited wildly under his tax advantages.

    Since he is making annual contributions to a charity, there is zero taxes paid on it, while also avoiding future inheritance taxes. It wouldn't be surprised if this is what gives him tax write-offs sufficient to create the tax results you speak of.

    This all leaves aside the fact that his wealth affords him a special relationship with politicians to open doors to special tax treatment and other benefits (check out his prior multi-year tax disputes and BofA deal), and allows him to battle the IRS with a team of lawyers over (Net Jets) - just to name one example. Here is a good run down of the many inconsistencies with what he espouses:

    http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-04-04/wall_street/31284723_1_top-federal-income-tax-warren-buffett-judge-learned-hand

    Aside from the fact that he is free to contribute more taxes voluntarily, seems like Mr. B is making a clear "vote" with his money on what is more effective use of his money - government or a private institute.

    Mr. B says with his behavior: "Do as I say, not as I do" .....

    Hypocrisy wrapped up in one folksy likable revered individual....a useful tool for the Left.

  • Ron H.

    And the *reason* it's important to understand those things, Larry, is so that your comments will reflect that understanding, and when others read those comments, they won't immediately know that you have no idea what you're talking about.

  • Ron H.

    Please read the above comment AFTER reading the one below.

  • LarryGross

    re: disappointing - nope. the point is that most charitable trusts deal with similar issues of protecting the environment, preventing over consumption of earth's assets. education, etc.

    saving the whales is no different than saving the eagles... by advocating outlawing DDT.

    re: self interests - is NOT what describes the missions of the Charitable Trusts - though.
    would you not agree?

    re: hard core capitalist - I never said it was a dirty word. I said that people who were ALSO were people who wanted to protect the environment, "save" species, "educate the poor" and all those other nasty libtard ideals.

    re: not mutually exclusive - really? do you actually listen to the dialogue here especially with regard to the environment and "helping people" much less saving whales or for that matter - mercury from coal burning getting into children and pregnant women?

    most of those who blather on here about "libertarian" principles are about as far from the concept of charitable foundations as you can get - in terms of the goals and missions of said trusts.

  • LarryGross

    re: understanding. oh totally agree. That's why you'll find most folks who are not self-avowed libertarians just fine with the idea of a capitalist creating a charitable trust to do "good works".

    so you have the guys that pollute the hell out of rivers and air to make money - then taking the profits from such venture to .... ah hem... save the whales... oh the irony, eh?

  • Ron H.

    Larry, why do you believe that a "capitalist think tank" would be inconsistent with "helping humanity"?

  • Ron H.

    "When you have something intelligent to share, you must do it elsewhere..."

    Nope. I can assure you that in my admittedly limited experience of "elsewhere", that isn't the case.

  • LarryGross

    oh I don't. I just think it's inconsistent to NOT set up a capitalist think tank and instead set up one of those nasty liberal charitable trusts that the Libertarians today believe they were not originally set up as "liberal", "do-gooder" organizations from the get go.

    the libertarians here have deluded themselves into believes that these charitable trusts started out as right wing trusts but were, one by one, all of them eventually taken over by nasty libtards.

    the whole idea is downright comical...

  • LarryGross

    ha ha ha... one thing I'm noticing here with so-called "libertarian" types.. they simply cannot tolerate those who disagree with them... tantrums, name calling, and the like are common... and expected...

  • skhpcola

    One thing that I am noticing with _you_ is that you are a POS troll that is unarmed with facts or rational thought. You dump your brainfarts here and behave like you are engaged in intelligent debate, when what you are actually accomplishing is making yourself the laughingstock of this small corner of the Internet. But you are too vacuous and pompous to realize that. What a progtard you are, Larry. You would make the perfect foil for the other two Stooges, Moe and Curly.

  • LarryGross

    guy.. go change your underwear and stop sniffing it.

  • skhpcola

    You need better material, retard. *Yawn*

  • LarryGross

    not with the likes of you cone head.

  • marque2

    I thought you believed in a no insult policy. No more?

  • LarryGross

    oh a truce? sure! as long as ya'll hold up your end... bet you can't...

    ;-)

  • marque2

    when have I insulted you before?

  • LarryGross

    my apologies. I got you mixed up with some of these other cretins...

    seriously. I do apologize to you if you did not engage and I'll make sure to note your name when I read and respond.