Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99 per year..
Subscribe for Full Access

The Philanthropist’s Lonely Path


A wealthy man bravely defends his choice of charities

As Jesus once said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Yet philanthropy has brought me nothing but headaches. I foolishly thought that ponying up billions for good causes would win me some praise from the hoi polloi. Instead, you jackals have been at my throat ever since. This letter is just to set the record straight. I may only have a few million left, but I still have my self-respect.

My (very generous) donation to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City helped fund the wonderful “Blackpool” exhibit, which pushed the limits of contemporary art by showing how petrochemical production and the environment exist in a creative tension. Yes, my company was responsible for one of the largest oil spills in American history, and yes, I paid some fines. But I wanted people to see beyond the headlines and get a look at the strange beauty of an oil derrick explosion from the convenience of a treasured art institution. I shouldn’t have bothered. Closed-minded people—whom I consider to be the present-day equivalent of the KGB—shut the whole thing down.

I keep getting death threats about the money I gave to Warm the Earth, an action-oriented think tank that raised the possibility that a new ice age was imminent, but I consider the whole project one of my greatest successes. Warm the Earth sought to harness the greenhouse effect for positive ends so that we could avoid a catastrophic fall in average temperatures. Some of the finest scientists from my oil company joined this effort; they don’t deserve your insults. At Warm the Earth, we released ancient deposits of methane gas trapped in underground caverns to help increase average global temperatures. Yes, in retrospect that was a bit counterproductive, but we make mistakes and we learn. That’s how scientific progress happens.

My desire to aid future generations of scientists led me to create Schools for Fuels, which gave classrooms around the country a teaching kit with a yearlong curriculum that explored the importance of fossil fuels in our lives. Every day the kids would find out something new about energy resources, like clean coal, fracking, or global cooling. Heck, I still find myself humming some of the songs. The textbooks told a lot of hard truths about environmentalists that maybe ten-year-olds weren’t ready to hear, but I’ll never apologize for trying to help children learn.

Great managers are rule-breakers and risk-takers—just like me—which is why Green to Black seemed like a great idea. I pumped $150 million into the nonprofit, which retrained dishonorably discharged soldiers to become oil executives. Sometimes a community doesn’t like the idea of a new fracking project just outside of town. As an oil executive, these brave, disgraced soldiers come prepared with the right skills to make a village bend to their will. Unfortunately, Green to Black was sued out of existence for its alleged links to the Santo Alberto Massacre, with a lot of loose talk about “death squads” from the irresponsible media. Such a loss to the business community.

I threw in the towel after my donation to the Adolf Hitler Institute caused a lot of people I considered friends to turn on me. First of all, it’s not the same Adolf Hitler—the Institute was named after an unrelated doctor who left his estate to cutting-edge medical research, and the terms of the estate didn’t allow for changing the name. I thought people would be mature enough to recognize the difference. Sadly, I was wrong. I found out about the allegations of misconduct with human experiments later. That’s not on me.

I tried to do a little good for the world—fat chance that happens again. When a philanthropist says jump, you people should ask how high. But that ought to be the only thing you ask. Don’t ruin a good thing with too many questions.

More from

“An unexpectedly excellent magazine that stands out amid a homogenized media landscape.” —the New York Times
Subscribe now