Washington Babylon — September 3, 2009, 9:41 am

Foreign Aid Making American CEOs Very Rich

From USA Today:

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.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $34.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2014

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quinoa Quarrel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

You Had to Be There

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Study in Sherlock

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

Article
50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I was warned that there would likely be a lot of emotions coming out in the room.”
Illustration by Katherine Streeter
Post
Dan Halpern’s “Citizen Walmart” (2012)·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He’s taking on a heap of debt to scale up for Walmart, a heap of debt.”
Photograph by Thomas Allen
Article
The Quinoa Quarrel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Bolivia’s gene banks contain far more quinoa varieties than any other country’s, yet the Bolivians are dead set against sharing them.”
Photograph by Lisa M. Hamilton
Article
You Had to Be There·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He explained how sober Doug structured the bits and worked out the material’s logic; drunk Doug found the funny.”
Illustration by Andrew Zbihlyj

Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:

2:1

Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.

Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST