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Honest reporting? Puh-leeze!

June 1, 2016

OK, if you think Donald Trump is a jerk, fine-a-roo.  It’s supposed to still be a free country. It isn’t illegal to hate someone, as even the FBI explains.

But the hullabaloo and press feeding frenzy over the money he raised for veteran’s charities is about on a par with the Black Lives Matter tweet insinuating that the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo was killed because the child was white and then the fact coming to light that SURPRISE! he wasn’t white (not sure where that difference would have left poor Harambe, much less the little boy, but hey, who cares about logic, right?).

Of all the tempests in a teapot up to now, this is the least informed and the most obviously misrepresented. Since most people know little or nothing about the inner workings of the nonprofit/philanthropic world at the six-figure-plus level,  it’s an easy ratings sell.

This is how it really works.

Foundations (the grantors) usually only disburse funds on an annual or semi-annual basis, precisely because they have to collect the money in order to disburse it. Very few foundations, from Bill Gates,  to the Rockefellers to yes, even the Clintons totally self-fund their philanthropy. Instead, they leverage their connections to build up pools of funding to be disbursed at a later date, usually but not always in the form of a grant.

So what happens at these fundraising galas?

First, it isn’t typical for donors to write a six or seven-figure check at the event. Fundraising or event committee chairpersons would love it if they did, but that’s not how it works.

Instead they sign a pledge, literally an IOU, to support the cause.  The event organizer or perhaps a foundation sponsor’s fundraising department may then send out what amounts to an invoice, which typically goes to the donor’s accountant or business manager.

That’s called creating a paper trail, and it IS a legal requirement.

Recipients of the funds have to meet certain guidelines, literally be vetted,  to meet the requirement that contributions only go to IRS-certified nonprofit entities.

Throwing the FEC into the mix to certify that none of the money raised went to Mr. Trump’s campaign may have added another layer to the process.

Second, it is quite normal for it to take months and even years to collect on a pledge, according to nonprofit fundraising experts. In fact it is so normal that it’s actually part of fundraising strategy. Typically, the larger the donation the longer the period the donor is given to pay off the pledge. It is considered the height of bad form to badger donors to make good on the pledges they make.

There are no, repeat no laws, state or Federal that require donors to come through with the pledged money within a stated time frame. The terms under which the money is to be paid are typically made at the time of the event, and predictably, there are always a few that never come through.

So if some of the charities got paid “months ago” and the rest within even six months, that’s really pretty normal. Charitable fundraising at this level doesn’t work like PayPal or Square.

More importantly the reporting is so predictably contrived. On one side we’ve got Hillary Clinton under actual FBI investigation for official misconduct so of course there has to be an equal amount of scandal attached to Trump, right?  Even if you have to make it up.

Of course it’s incredibly naïve to expect anything in politics to be fair or honest. Mr. Trump brings some of this on himself just by virtue of his personality and by being a candidate the establishment can’t control. And of course there’s the Trump University thing.

With all that real fodder to munch on, why bother pumping up a non-story?

In any case, all this speaks to why voters are so fed up with the system. Just because it’s expected doesn’t mean it’s appreciated.

Sure, the press can claim credit for “requiring transparency” although they haven’t been too good at that for the past seven years or so.

Still, how smart is it to be on the wrong side of a potential President?  If he wins, most of the press can expect to be interviewing him via satellite from Siberia.

From → op-ed

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