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October 28, 2016

Daily News Roundup: Critics See Disconnect in Ford Foundation Head's Pepsi Role

Ford Foundation President Raises Eyebrows by Joining Pepsi Board: Some philanthropy observers are questioning Darren Walker's decision to take a paid seat on the food and beverage giant's board in light of evidence that sugary drinks contribute to America's obesity epidemic, The New York Times writes. Under Mr. Walker's leadership, Ford has focused fully on economic and social inequality, and critics note that obesity and related health problems disproportionately affect the poor. The foundation head said he is sensitive to concerns about his new corporate role and that he intends to bring to the Pepsi boardroom "my perspective as someone who is deeply concerned about the welfare of people in poor and vulnerable communities.”

Audit Says San Francisco Museum Payment Improper but Not Illegal: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco broke no laws in paying $450,000 to an ill ex-employee in 2014 without authorization by its board, but a review by city auditors characterized the payment as inappropriate, writes the San Francisco Chronicle. The audit report said the museum group does not have rules that would have required board approval of the transaction, made at the behest of then-chief executive Dede Wilsey, but called on it to adopt policies requiring documentation of such payouts, per federal guidelines for nonprofits. Controversy over the matter led to a reorganization that saw Ms. Wilsey, a prominent Bay Area philanthropist and socialite who was also serving as the institution's president, given the new title of board chair.

Critics See "Wall Street Takeover" of Charity in Donor-Advised Funds' Ascendance: The American Prospect magazine examines the fierce debate over donor-advised funds in light of the rise of Fidelity Charitable, a sponsor of the charitable accounts, to the No. 1 spot in The Chronicle's Philanthropy 400 ranking of the country's biggest nonprofits. The article cites both critics and supporters of the funds, the biggest of which are offshoots of large commercial financial-services firms. The funds confer tax deductions on donors but are under no obligation to disburse the contributions to charities in a set time, a circumstance that has fueled Congressional proposals to impose payout requirements. Subscribers can read a Chronicle report on how donor-advised funds are reshaping philanthropy and explore our interactive database of facts and figures on the largest providers.

Private Colleges' Tax Exemptions Cost N.Y. Towns $1 Billion: Nonprofit institutions of higher education own $36.5 billion worth of property in upstate New York, a 50 percent increase from a decade ago, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports, citing an analysis of state financial data by the USA Today Network. Tax exemptions on increasingly valuable property held by Marist, Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, and other colleges cost municipalities and school districts in the region some $1 billion in revenue. Conservative think tank the Empire Center said the exemptions exacerbate an already high tax burden for state residents, but colleges say the economic activity they generate in their hometowns far outweighs the tax breaks. A separate Journal article spotlights the town-gown fiscal dispute between Ithaca, N.Y., and Cornell University.