One of the common threads running throughout recent political scandals has been politicians taking payments from, or otherwise abusing their influence over, not-for-profit organizations that they’ve founded or to which they otherwise have ties.
Crain’s Business has this profile of recent links between pols and charities; the New York Post just ran this opinion piece on the subject. And the New York Daily News had this to say about the pervasive abuse of non-profits by Bronx pols.
Community nonprofits often provide a powerful political base for politicians (e.g., Vito Lopez, Pedro Espada) for several reasons. First, they are popular because they provide medical and other social services to constituents. Second, they provide a source of patronage jobs to hand out to friends and allies. Third, nonprofits are valuable to the extent that pols can use their resources for as political organizing and fundraising.
But they also present a huge conflict of interest when these politicians (and their political allies) are able to direct so-called “member item” appropriations directly to a non-profit that they control. The conflict is obvious when pols also draw a paycheck from the nonprofit. It’s just as obvious that there is a problem when a pol’s relatives or significant others work for the nonprofit.
The solution seems so simple: prohibit pols from directing or accepting anything from non-profits with which they are affiliated. Indeed, why not prohibit pols from having any dealings with such non-profits while they are in office.
As recent events make abundantly clear, politicians (and especially NY politicians) cannot be trusted with the purse-strings of nonprofits.
Further Recommended Reading:
- When Pols Profit from Charities, Crains Business Weekly (Sept. 9, 2012)
- New York Non-Profit Corruption, Public Sector Inc. (Sept. 3, 2012)
- Where the Statehouse Often Leads to the Big House, Wall Street Journal (Aug. 31, 2012)
- Twisted Web of Political Nonprofits in the Bronx, New York Post (Aug. 26, 2012)
- Feds Question Meeks Over Millions Steered to Queens Nonprofit, New York Post (July 28, 2012)