A time-honored way for potentates, corporate baddies, and other unsavory types to show they are really good people who love art, music, education, health, welfare, etc., is for them write large checks to nonprofit groups.
The theory is very simple: we’re generous philanthropists…how could we possibly be bad?
Turns out a series of Russian oligarchs currently under international sanction for their close ties to the Putin regime and other Russian tycoons have been following the old philanthropist script to a “t.” According to the Washington Post:
American philanthropies, museums and universities have accepted millions of dollars from tycoons aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including several who are the targets of Western sanctions, according to an analysis by anti-corruption researchers.
Among the many beneficiaries are such storied institutions as New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Mayo Clinic and the Guggenheim Museum, the research shows — a reflection of how deeply money from Russian oligarchs has penetrated American society.
Here’s a specific example:
Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia’s richest men, who has given millions to the Kennedy Center and been a major benefactor of the Guggenheim Museum. Potanin has not been sanctioned but was among the Kremlin insiders who profited handsomely in the 1990s when the Russian government essentially sold off state-owned companies to politically connected business figures. He reportedly plays hockey with Putin and, according to state-owned news agency Tass, he and other oligarchs met with the Russian president at the Kremlin shortly after the invasion of Ukraine.
The nonprofits all say they’ve moved on, nothing to see here. And they are probably right. But the whole episode is a reminder of how much the nonprofit world depends on the latest donation. Regardless of its source.