Barbara Bush: Donating or Hurricane Profiteering?

Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Hurricane relief fund, and specified that the money must be used to purchase Ignite Software for Houston schools.

While charitable donations can be earmarked for a specific purpose, I have never heard of a charitable donation that is earmarked to be given to a specific business, whether owned by one’s next of kin or not.

Never mind that this is disgustingly self-promoting behavior for anyone, let alone a multi-million-dollar Presidential family. I question whether it is even legal. I would like to see the IRS review this situation and say that it is okay for a charitable organization to be required to use a donation to purchase the product of a specific company. That just seems plain wrong.

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4 responses

  1. There is a term for this, it’s called money laundering. This is especially the case when Barbara is part owner of the company.

  2. “What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them.” –Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 5, 2005

  3. Would you find it equally wrong if Apple Computer gave a school $25,000 to spend on Apple products? I don’t know the specifics, and it doesn’t necessarily sit easy with me either. But illegal? money laundering? If she is part owner of the company, then basically she is giving away product.

    The Bush family has given enormous amounts of time and money to both tsunami disaster and Katrina relief. This post seems a bit petty.

  4. Mike, as is so often the case, the devil is in the details. Charitable donations are tax-deductible because ostensibly they are gifts and not for the purpose of promoting any specific enterprise, but for the purpose of promoting a social cause.

    Otherwise nonprofit 501(c)(3)s would become shells for businesses to take tax deductions and direct the funds to ensure buyers for their product in the process. I don’t believe the nonprofit tax code was set up for that intent, and if that is how it is being used, I think there is a real need for reform.

    Corporations can donate their product — they do it all the time. And they get a big tax write-off for the donation. If the Bushes bought XXX amount of Ignite software and donated it to the Houston schools, there would be much less of an issue.

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