By Doug Porter
Rewire.news (formerly RH Reality Check) has published a blockbuster exposé about California Community Foundations’ role in enabling wealthy donors to fund so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs).
A substantial body of evidence from federal and independent investigators, public health experts, and academics describes how crisis pregnancy centers peddle medically inaccurate information to coerce pregnant people into carrying to full term.
The estimated 4000 storefront operations in California emerged on the losing end of a battle last year when the legislature passed AB 775, the Reproductive Fact Act. It regulates centers “whose primary purpose is providing pregnancy-related services,” including CPCs, requiring the facilities to post a short public notice about access to abortion and birth control. Unlicensed centers are required to post a notice that they are not licensed medical facilities.
Concerns over CPCs dispensing misinformation to vulnerable patients prompted the law, following an undercover investigation finding these operations, generally staffed by anti-choice activists, discourage patients from having abortions by routinely lying to women about their options. Other investigations found that CPCs convince women to remain pregnant with false promises of financial aid and housing.
Rewire reviewed the tax filings of the California Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, San Diego Foundation, and Los Altos Community Foundation. They discovered a combined total of $2.7 million funneled by these foundations over a five-year period to fake pregnancy clinics.
…the San Diego Foundation, which has half of the assets of the San Francisco Foundation, gave $339,020 over five years to five fake clinics in Southern California. One of the clinics, Culture of Life Family Services, offers “abortion pill reversal.” Abortion pill reversal is the unscientific, unproven notion, popular in the anti-choice movement, that a medication abortion can be undone with a large dose of hormones.
While these grants represent a fraction of these foundations’ total giving—which encompasses a variety of charities, including groups dedicated to reproductive health care—the money was significant to the crisis pregnancy centers that received the funds, accounting for up to a quarter of their annual revenue in some cases. In other words, money from community foundations helped fake clinics to keep their doors open.
Rewire also discovered that between 2010 and 2014, the San Diego Foundation and California Community Foundation supported another prong of the anti-choice movement: propaganda. The San Diego Foundation gave $1.5 million in 2014 to Live Action, which has produced doctored videos seeking to smear abortion providers.
Foundation representatives contacted by Rewire said they’re merely following the wishes of donors who’ve given money to the foundations through donor-advised funds.
Community foundations, which are more advantageous to donors seeking tax deductions, are not compelled to either accept money in a donor-advised fund or spend it on crisis pregnancy centers. Donors get also privacy protections and community foundations take 1% off the top for expenses.
And the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which regulates tax-exempt charities, also makes this clear, writing, “[o]nce the donor makes the contribution, the organization has legal control over it.”
“They can say no. They can say no anytime they want to,” explained Richard Fox, a shareholder specializing in taxation and nonprofits with Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, PC, and a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
“Community foundations are the owners of the money, and they have full discretion over that money—that’s how the law works,” Fox, who recently tried a case where the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed that foundations control the money in donor-advised funds, told Rewire in a phone interview.
I tweeted out the link to the Rewired article this morning, getting the following response:
@dougporter506 This is an absurd smear. These are donor advised funds. The community foundations are acting as pass thru organizations.
— Ben Katz (@MeanestBossEver) October 27, 2016
So my question is: If a neo-nazi-leaning donor wanted to “pass through” money to a “white power” organization that had disguised its operations enough to get non-profit status from the IRS, would that also be okay?
I doubt you’ll see much about this story in the local “non-profit” news media.
On This Day: 1858 – Roland Macy opened Macy’s Department Store in New York City. It was Macy’s eighth business adventure, the other seven failed. 1951 – The National Labor Council was formed in Cincinnati to unite Black workers in the struggle for full economic, political and social equality. The group was to function for five years before disbanding, having forced many AFL and CIO unions to adopt non-discrimination 1975 – Bruce Springsteen was simultaneously on the cover of “Time” and “Newsweek.” This was the first time this happened for a rock star.
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