Barack Obama’s “Social Innovation” slush fund
by Michelle Malkin
We all know now what the vengeful Obama IRS has been doing to conservative nonprofits the past four years: strangling them in the crib. But do you know how much pampering and largesse far-left welfare-state charities have received while limited-government groups suffered? You don’t know the half of it.
Before President Obama took office, I warned that Democrats planned to steer untold amounts of taxpayer dollars to his shady community-organizing pals. The Dems’ 2008 party platform proposed the creation of a “Social Investment Fund Network” to subsidize “social entrepreneurs and leading nonprofit organizations (that) are assisting schools, lifting families out of poverty, filling health care gaps and inspiring others to lead change in their own communities.”
Investigative journalist James O’Keefe’s pioneering work helped bring down the fraudsters of ACORN. But a thousand other ACORN-style knockoffs have metastasized in the shadows. Not long after Obama took office, big-government Democrats and Republicans handed him the $6 billion mandatory “volunteerism” package known as the “SERVE America Act.” The boondoggle fueled legions of new government “volunteers,” including a Clean Energy Corps, an Education Corps, a Healthy Futures Corps, a Veterans Service Corps and an expanded National Civilian Community Corps for disaster relief and energy conservation.
In addition to creating thousands of make-work jobs and boosting bloated national service bureaucracies, the legislation also carved out a left-wing slush fund known as the Social Innovation Fund. In its four-year existence, SIF has doled out $140 million to 20 handpicked grant-making organizations, which in turn have chosen 197 “promising nonprofits” for government support.
Obama promised “accountability” measures to ensure the money is spent wisely. But who has been assessing the effectiveness of the spending? As I reported at the outset, it’s interest-conflicted foxes in the social entrepreneurship community guarding the government-grant henhouse.
Among the lucky winners of these crony SIF monies: Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which received $4.2 million and had employed Patrick Corvington, former head of the Corporation for National and Community Service; and social welfare outfit New Profit Inc., which received $5 million and had employed former SIF Executive Director Paul Carttar. New Profit’s conflicts are gobsmacking. Nonprofit Quarterly noted that SIF “owes its existence at least in part to New Profit, which in 2007 put together a coalition of nonprofit groups called America Forward to advocate for, among other things, the creation of a federal fund.”
The inspector general overseeing SIF, AmeriCorps and other SERVE Act programs agreed with critics that the Social Innovation Fund grant application process lacked transparency, lacked a policy on handling staff conflicts of interest and failed to fully document grant award decisions. Another IG audit released just last week revealed that a prominent SIF grantee, the progressive Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, “fail(ed) to remove two of its employees, who were known by CEO management to have criminal histories that made them ineligible, from working on the SIF grant.”
As Paul Light, a public policy professor at New York University who served on a review panel for the fund, told National Public Radio: “It’s not clear yet what taxpayers have gotten for the money.” The phony-baloney statistics that SIF bureaucrats tout to show how many have been “served” simply demonstrate the Nanny State “entrepreneurs'” real agenda: maximizing the number of government dependents and rewarding social welfare operatives.
The Obama administration’s politicization of charity — or the “Solyndra-ization of philanthropy,” as the Manhattan Institute’s Howard Husock calls it — has created a permanent taxpayer-backed pipeline to Democratic partisan outfits masquerading as public-interest do-gooders. There’s nothing “innovative” about underwriting the same failed dependency-inducing community organizing fronts while persecuting others based on ideology.
It’s self-SERVE-ing Chicago business as usual.