Kaiser's foundation under scrutiny
When Solyndra went under, George B. Kaiser's name began popping up in news stories around the nation.
Kaiser's foundation, the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), held the biggest stake in the bankrupt solar-panel producer, once championed by President Barack Obama.
Journalists around the nation -- from ABC News to the New York Times -- zeroed in on Kaiser's role in the Solyndra scandal, and by extension, his foundation's successful tax avoidance.
But the picture of Kaiser in Tulsa, where he lives, works and donates, remains rosy. An Oct. 17 story in the Tulsa World gives a well-researched but thoroughly sunny picture of Kaiser, a billionaire who describes himself as a "Robber Baron of Red State America."
But as far back as 2005, the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) has been scrutinized. An April 2005 investigation by the New York Times found that after Kaiser "set aside roughly $1 billion for charitable endeavors from 2000 to the end of last year ," he only gave $3.4 million to charities.
"In exchange," staff writer Stephanie Strom wrote, "he can now deflect taxes on much of his own income over the next several years."
Since the Solyndra scandal broke, questions are rising to the surface again. For a less sparkling picture of Kaiser's charitable foundation, check out some of these national news tidbits.
An Oct. 13 iWatch News delves into Kaiser's tax conundrum with a story headlined, "How an Obama fundraiser turned Oklahoma into a personal tax haven." Find it on iwatchnews.org.
Or head to PhilanthropyDaily.com to read an in-depth write-up from the standpoint of a reporter well-versed in the twists and turns of the nonprofit world. "I sure wish [Kaiser] grasped why ordinary Americans see a big difference between the times he chooses to give away his own money versus the times he steers tax dollars to his favorite causes, for-profit and non-profit, by making numerous visits to the White House and chatting up cabinet secretaries," Walter wrote.
An Oct. 13 investigation by Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group written by Bill Allison, co-author of the 2001 book The Cheating of America, found Kaiser has "built his fortune in part through shrewdly playing the Internal Revenue Code."
Allison's story, headlined "Barack Obama's other billionaire: How George Kaiser turned Oklahoma into his personal tax haven," reported, "In one six year period, during which he increased his net worth enough to land him on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, Kaiser reported taxable income to the Internal Revenue Service just once, totaling $11,699."
A Sept. 27 Washington Post article also detailed Kaiser's use of a tax loophole to shelter his wealth, as well as Congress' stern disapproval. "Congressional interest in the nonprofit group [GKFF] was so high in 2005, in fact, that an attorney for then-committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) used it in an internal memo as a case study into whether the tax loophole should be closed."
In 2002, the foundation distributed just 0.2 percent of its assets to charity, the Post reported, while private charitable foundations are typically required to donate at least five percent of their assets each year.
However, GKFF is set up as a "supporting organization," which financially sustains Tulsa Community Foundation, founded in 1999.
The 2005 congressional memo stated, "Individuals should not be allowed to 'park' their assets in charities in order to preserve their assets in perpetuity, while simultaneously benefiting from a charitable contribution deduction."
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