Friday, August 12, 2011
We have blogged on numerous occasions about politicians, sometimes quite legally, using nonprofit organizations to steer public funds to charities tied to their friends, financial supporters, or even themselves. Most recently, we blogged about a civil lawsuit that the D.C. Attorney General had filed against D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. based on allegations that Thomas had diverted more than $300,000 in public funds for his own benefit, in large party through a charity.
Now the Washington Post reports that Thomas and other Council members have used their influence over the same charity, the D.C. Council-created D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., to direct $13 million to favored charities without going through the normal bidding process, even though the Trust Corp. is supposed to independently decide which local charities best address problems facing city youths. Those charities often had board members or other officials who made significant campaign contributions to city officials, including Council members, or who were former staff of Council members. The story is clear that unlike the allegations in the suit against Thomas, which the article notes has now been settled, there are no accusations here that any of the funds were diverted for the personal benefit of Council members, or that this past earmarking violated the law (as of the current year, such earmarking is now forbidden). Nevertheless, it is another troubling example of politicians using charities - with the apparent consent and possibly encouragement of well-connected charity leaders - to do more than serve the public good.