I'm going to do a series of posts about things and people that should be rewarded with positive attention and support, and things and people that correspondingly, should be shunned or disregarded.
This would never have come to the forefront of my mind again, had not the Chronicle of Philanthropy featured a headline article detailing former Vice President Al Gore's demands upon America's private foundations and trusts: they should commit to funding the fight against climate change - now, more than ever.
First, the GOOD. If you are concerned about the environment, pursue efforts in your own community to make it friendlier for bikes, foot travel and even horse trails in the right environments. Advocate for open space and responsible stewardship of natural resources. As to recycling madly - continue smart recycling and even composting, but keep in mind, a toilet paper shortage looms on the horizon and nobody wants that. That's right - in the ever-worsening Gore-world, no "improvement" takes place. The toilet paper shortage looms because the amount of paper being used and recycled has declined due to consistent, ongoing efforts to a) conserve and not waste paper; and b) the increase of non-paper reading material, such as the internet, Kindle, Nook and now . . . the iPad.
If you really care about the environment and nature, you'll make a small contribution to a good helping organization - such as the all-volunteer Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue in North Carolina, which rescues and rehabilitates injured sea turtles. A modest gift to this organization will go directly to medical supplies, food and care of the animals until they are healed and can be safely released into the ocean. You can even "adopt" a sea turtle for amounts ranging from $25 to $250 which provide different amounts and longer times for care. The Sea Turtle Rescue received a little more than $237,000 in contributions in 2008, according to their tax return.
Now to what should be shunned: speeches and presentations and "commands" from former Vice President Al Gore, especially those pertaining to what is called by sophisticates, "climate change," and what most people (including the National Wildlife Federation) are more familiar with as "global warming."
How can we put Mr. Gore's command to America's large foundations and trusts into perspective? Why, for example, does he make this command today? Well, he was offered money to make a speech, that's why. He was invited to speak before the National Council of Foundations this morning. I am sure all those representives of family charitable trusts were glad to hear this command from a man who puts his money where his mouth is . . . or - does he?
This is a politically-motivated article that highlights the extreme stinginess of many politicians. Let's take the party label off this, because in general, most politicians are stingy. They love to spend others' money (taxes) and obviously loathe to spend their own (donations and charity). If President Clinton had been free-spending, he might have had more high-profile or sophisticated partners than Monica Lewinsky, who from what I understand, was very easy to please and keep interested. In 1998, Vice President Gore was slightly embarrassed to have his and Tipper's ultra-"generous" 1997 charitable contributions of $367 (off a near-$400,000 income) released to the public. I'm sure since that time, they've tried to be a little more generous. Especially to environmental, climate-change fighting organizations!
However, let's fast-forward to today. Al Gore is a board member of Apple Inc. After concerted, albeit mild and jocular criticism by much of its customer base, Apple finally began to undertake environmentally-sustainable manufacturing and distributions practices last year. You read that right. Apple has the "best" reputation, doesn't it? Steve Jobs can do "no wrong," and these products are "ideal" for the environment -- yet even GreenBiz reports that of the four major IT companies - Apple, Dell, HP and IBM, Apple has by FAR the least disclosure of its carbon impact policies and releases no information on its charitable contributions of any type. That's because its biggest charitable contribution, the donation of computers to schools, was a very clever business ploy - not unlike Camel giving cigarettes out on street corners and at sporting events.
According to Conrad MacKerron at GreenBiz (2-2009), "A recent report by RiskMetrics and CERES focusing on corporate governance and climate change policies scored IBM at 79. Dell 77, and Apple 27. One of the key issues the survey tracked was board oversight of climate change. It asked for evidence of explicit oversight responsibility for environmental affairs or climate change. Apple got a score of zero in that area. Think about that -- a zero with Al Gore on the board." This May, 2009 article details Congressional questioning of former Vice President Gore - it, too is politically motivated; however, it also shows a person who isn't very forthcoming about putting his own money where his mouth is, and who is quick to attack and denigrate others.
So, let's take a look at the Alliance for Climate Protection, the nonprofit organization that Mr. Gore states he provides all of the funding to. He is also its founder and President. In 2005 and 2006, the Alliance for Climate Protection received income of only $70,000 and $60,000 respectively. In 2007, the organization received $25,304,552, and in 2008, $88,303,373, which is primarily derived from payments from Mr. Gore's for-profit venture capital investment firm - Generation Investment Management. I wonder if the individual employee of American Express that contributed $60 a quarter in 2008, was aware that their contribution seems to be the number-one private donor contribution to the Alliance for Climate Protection aside from the lump-sum payments from the profits of the Venture Capital firm. These reduce tax liability, you know. You knew that, didn't you? Yes, they do.
Many of us in the nonprofit sector have been aware of stepped-up Congressional and White House activity advocating for greater strictures on charitable giving. Many know that the majority of charitable giving in America is directed toward churches or religiously-associated charities, such as the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities. Last year, the White House and eager Congressional representatives backed off a plan to reduce charitable deductions on taxes. This is all very understandable for people who make nearly $500,000 a year and think $367 is a real generous amount of charitable contribution.
However, the venture capital firm gave almost $100 million to the Alliance for Climate Protection in 2008 - and spent nearly $70 million. On work to combat global warming? Well, in a manner of speaking, probably . . .
- $29,498,136 went to the Martin Agency for "Media Campaign"
- $23,102,245 went to Ingenuity Media Group for "Media Campaign"
- $ 3,406,311 went to Glover Park Group for "Communications"
- $ 1,667,434 went to Crispin, Porter & Bogusky for "Advertising and Media"
- $ 150,618 went to Blue State Digital - for the website.
Now, $3,106,500 did go to direct grants, none of which were larger than $150,000 each, to various environmental organizations to publicize the importance of combating global warming to, or to educate, their members and constituents. This represents about 3.5% of the total income of the organization. About 12% according to the tax returns, went to the organization's regular operations - the paid President/CEO (not Mr. Gore) got about as much money as two of the big direct grants put together ($300,000).
As to the main expenditures, these are for media campaigns of all types. The Martin Agency won Adweek's Agency of the Year award this year. You can watch the "We Can Solve It.Org" ad on the agency's website. The #2 expenditure, of $23,102,245 for Ingenuity Media Group is actually part of the Martin Agency. It's the part that says "We're Geeks and We're Proud of It." I've never seen this ad - but it's connected to all those smarmy "celeb" "I can stop global warming" videos that are so omnipresent everywhere. We Can Solve It.org says it has over 5 million members, and their "repower wall" is all a bunch of hot air, with promotional videos of CEOs interspersed with YouTube Attention Whores regular people. So, over $52 million of expenditures went to the Martin Agency to produce these ads, place them, and set up and run this website that right now, is existing to feature videos of people saying "we can solve climate change!"
I do a fair bit of YouTube watching and . . . here's a search on wecansolveit.org. Looks like their top-viewed video has 330,000 views. So, if I divide that into $52 million, Al Gore's "charity" just paid the Martin firm $147.58 per "view". I'm sure everyone will support that and see what a reasonable expense it is. I'm sure everyone can see just how much of a real impact that's going to have on "climate change." This is entirely in line with nearly every government "program" I'm familiar with.
By point of comparison, "Powerthirst" now has 19.2 million views, and I bet it did not cost $52 million to produce and "distribute." And of course, "Charlie Bit My Finger" - very expensive home video costing NOTHING to produce, closing in on 200 million views.
If you do care about nature and the environment, you'd do so much more good adopting a turtle. Isn't about time to just turn Al Gore off? By the way, he is heavily "invested" in this "cap and trade" legislation. Or would you rather just let him bite your finger . . . again???