quasi in rem

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Is Theresa Heinz Kerry using the Heinz Foundation to launder money for her husbands campaign?

I discussed this over a month ago but with today's revelations concerning the Tides founadtion over on InstaPundit.Com I though I would repost it. Glenn asks about the funding of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows from the Tides Foundation. He states: "Could this be a campaign-finance law violation? I don't know enough to tell, but it's certainly an end-run, legal or otherwise. But it's yet another reason to wonder why the finances of nonprofits don't get more scrutiny -- and why the press is so ready to take these sorts of groups at face value, instead of looking into where their money comes from."

This is what I wrote last month:

Theresa Heinz Kerry has said that she won't tap into her massive fortune left to her by her husband to fund her husband's campaign unless he is personally attacked. Of course campaign finance laws already prevent her from doing that. On the other hand, she has never said that she wouldn't use her position at the $1.2 billion Heinz Foundation Endowment, a job she inherited when her first husband, Republican Sen. John Heinz, passed away, to help advance John Kerry's candidacy.

It is beginning to appear that she might be using that philanthropical position for just such a purpose. Theresa Heinz-Kerry is currently the Chairman of the Howard Heinz foundation and serves on the board of directors of the Vira Heinz Foundation. The stated purpose of the foundations is stated as such:

"The Heinz Endowments comprise two private foundations, the Howard Heinz Endowment and the Vira I. Heinz Endowment. Our shared mission is to help southwestern Pennsylvania thrive as a whole community economically, ecologically, educationally, and culturally while advancing the state of knowledge and practice in the fields in which we work. "

Which is very honorable as a stated goal. As a former resident of southwestern Pennsylvania I can honestly attest that the area needs all the help it can get. But that goal seems to be quite at odds with some of the major gifts the Endowment has been giving out recently. For example the League of Conservation Voters' political director Mark Longabaugh said the group got $57,300 from the Heinz Family Foundation from 1993 to 2001, including a $2,500 personal contribution from her in 2000"

And how did they spend that money? Well in the 2004 Election Cycle the League of Conservation Voters purchased and aired an ad, called "One Candidate." The ad praises Sen. John Kerry's record, saying "there's only one candidate who can take on President Bush, with a record of fighting for clean water, clean air and making polluters pay." The ad ran in Arizona and New Mexico prior to the Democratic primaries in those states.

But that just appears to be the tip of the iceberg. Since the late nineties, Heinz Endowments have made some even more questionable donations.

Most disturbing among those is the association the Heinz Foundation has made with the Tides Foundation and Tides Center, an organization with no obvious roots to southwestern Pennsylvania, other than in the name of one of its offshoots, the Tides Center of Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Tides Center, established in 1979, has been legally separate from the Foundation since 1996. It helps manage the legal, accounting and other administrative aspects of start-up political advocacy "projects." In effect, it shelters activists and their fledgling organizations under the umbrella of its own nonprofit tax-exempt status.

The Tides organization was set up in 1976 by California activist Drummond Pike. Activistcash.com notes that "Tides does two things better than any other foundation or charity in the U.S. today: it routinely obscures the sources of its tax-exempt millions, and makes it difficult (if not impossible) to discern how the funds are actually being used. "

Since 1997, the Howard Heinz Endowment has become very close with the secretive Tides center, giving
over 3.2 million dollars in that time frame, not including last year. But how does the Tides spend that money. Its not entirely clear, as secrecy is imperative in hiding sources and expenditures of funding in today's era of strict FEC regulation of campaign activity. Drummond Pike has reinforced this view, telling The Chronicle of Philanthropy: "Anonymity is very important to most of the people we work with."

But not all of the activities of the Tides Center are so anonymous. For example the Tides organization sponsors the Environmental Media Services, which sponsors many liberal groups and activities. So how exactly do you follow the laundry list of money? Here we go:

Theresa Heinz directs the Heinz Foundation Endowment.

The Heinz Foundation Endowment gives to the Tides Center despite no direct link to the foundations stated purpose.

The Tides Center then funds the Environmental Media Services.

And the Environmental Media services funds various anti-administration, pro-Kerry causes likeBushgreenwatch.org

This is just one of many examples of the intricate funding measures for campaigns that have sprung up since McCain Feingold. It also raises many questions. Has Theresa Heinz been using her position at the Heinz Foundation to further her husbands campaign? If so then is this an appropriate use of the organization's money and resources?

More importantly, if Theresa Heinz can direct Heinz Foundation resources to causes that directly or indirectly support her husband's campaign then do those funds fall under the non-exempt tax status of campaign donations, thus threatening the status of the Heinz Foundation. Similarly, do these monies then fall under personal donations, thereby drawing the ire of the FEC. The activities of the League of Conservation Voters and Tides Center are likely just the tip of the iceberg in this laundry list of funding activities. As this campaign stretches into the summer, the money will continue to flow and these questions will continue to be asked.

Edited to add this:

Blake from American Footprint points to a list of nonpolitical charitable based organizations in his comment. As I note above, any work done by the foundation in supporting that region is laudable and needed and I by no means want to disparage their work. However, it is not entirely clear that all of the Heinz money goes to TCWPA. The problem arises when groups like the Tides Foundation are given access to large sources of funds with which to distribute amongst their various and sundry underlings. McCain Feingold just created a whole new box of worms.

Also note that American Footprint is one fantastic looking blog. I wish my blog was that cool, but alas, it likely never will be.


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