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Four chief executives whose government-funded non-profit corporations are paid to deliver U.S. foreign assistance earned more than half a million dollars in 2007, a USA TODAY review of public tax records shows. Although President Obama and Congress placed a $500,000 cap on salaries at companies getting taxpayer bailouts, there is no such restriction on those that subsist on federal grants — even those delivering aid to some of the world’s poorest regions…
“It conflicts with most people’s notion of what a non-profit organization is about when they’re paying themselves salaries that are several times higher than what a U.S. Cabinet secretary would earn,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the subcommittee that funds foreign aid.
The U.S. Agency for International Development relies on a cadre of for-profit companies and tax-exempt groups to deliver foreign assistance programs, which Obama says has gone awry. “Western consultants and administrative costs end up gobbling huge percentages of our aid overall,” Obama said to the news website allAfrica.com in July.
Salaries at for-profit USAID contractors are not disclosed, but non-profit agencies must report their CEO pay on public tax returns posted at Guidestar.org. USA TODAY examined total CEO compensation of the 10 largest recipients of foreign aid grants and contracts that also derive at least 70% of their revenue from U.S. taxpayers. Each one receives a 501(c)3 charitable exemption from federal taxes. The 10 firms received approximately $4.2 billion in foreign aid grants and contracts over the past three years, government records show. An understaffed USAID has become “a check-writing agency,” Leahy said.
“Large swaths of foreign aid are now dominated by this handful of corporate consultants, many of them enjoying the tax benefits of non-profit status,” Leahy said. “A lot of them do very good work, but they also charge a lot in overhead and salaries. The process has become too cozy, shutting out many smaller non-profits that have much to offer.”
I have a piece in the current issue of the magazine that looks specifically at the scam of American “aid” to Afghanistan, which has failed to rebuild the country but has managed to increase the world’s supply of heroin.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”