Ask Community Foundation of the CSRA to Explain its Donation to White Supremacist Organization

Update: Additional information in Atlanta Journal Constitution article, March 21

Augusta, Georgia-based Community Foundation of the Central Savannah River Area was the largest donor in recent years to the white supremacist National Policy Institute headed by #45Regime adviser Richard Spencer. Read this excerpt from Matt Pearce’s article in the March 20, 2017 Los Angeles Times.

Its chief executive, Shell K. Berry, said the donations to Spencer’s group came from a “donor-advised fund” — a common arrangement in the charity world in which a donor gives money to one group with the intention of having it forwarded to others. The arrangement can offer the donor tax benefits as well as anonymity.

Neither Berry nor Spencer would reveal the identity of the original donor.

Berry said her nonprofit’s board never reviewed the purpose of Spencer’s organization before approving the donations. At the time, Spencer’s group was in good standing with the IRS.

“In no way did our organization, its board or its staff actively know or support the mission of this organization, and I don’t want it to be construed that we ever did,” said Berry, who said she found out about the donations after she took over in 2015 and was “not terribly excited” about being connected to Spencer.

The previous chief executive, R. Lee Smith Jr., could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Philip Hackney, a Louisiana State University law professor and former IRS attorney, said that foundations wield “final control” over donor-advised funds and can reject a donor’s requests. But in practice, requests are almost always approved if the recipient is in good standing with the IRS, Hackney said.

I used the foundation’s Contact Us form to send the letter below. I encourage others to demand some accountability from the Community Foundation.

Note: After some time, I realized I should have included in the letter something like, “I realize the foundation handles large amounts of money, and I appreciate the foundation’s value to Augusta.” So write a better letter than mine.

I read “Georgia nonprofit says it unwittingly gave $25,000 to white nationalist Richard Spencer” in the March 20, 2017 Los Angeles Times.

What measures are you taking in light of this failure to examine the National Policy Institute before granting it money?

Or does your organization in fact support the National Policy Institute?

At minimum, the Community Foundation should disclose the identity of the donor who asked that the money be channeled to the National Policy Institute.

Sincerely,

Ayman Fadel
[my Augusta address]

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