In a recent Huffington Post piece ("When Charity That Begins At Home, Wrecks the Home"), I wrote how the US Sugar Corporation -- controlled by an IRS tax-exempt foundation -- is a principal meddler in local, state, and national politics. One aim of the foundation is to protect fresh water resources. The aim of the corporation: to shift most of the cost of cleaning up its pollution to taxpayers. It is a sweet deal for the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation and US Sugar Corporation that depends on GOP officials toeing the party line: protect Big Sugar subsidies and profits. Meanwhile, property values and quality of life of Floridians on both coasts of Florida are being used as sacrifice zones. It's a formula that fits as neatly into the back pocket of Big Sugar as does Marco Rubio, whose main support comes from Big Sugar billionaires including US Sugar. Florida Republicans, please don't vote for Marco Rubio.
(Photos below: protesters demonstrating against the Mott Foundation at a recent Miami meeting of the national Environmental Grant-Makers Association.)
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
NEWS AND ANALYSIS
MARCH 04, 2016
Effort to Shame Mott Foundation Is Well-Timed, Expert Says
The Everglade Trust criticized the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for not using its influence at U.S. Sugar to make changes to farming practices that can improve the health of the Everglades.
By Ben Gose
The Everglades Trust’s attempts to publicly shame the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation during a prominent environmental grant-making conference don’t appear to have elicited any immediate response from the foundation, but that doesn’t mean the effort was a failure, one philanthropy expert says.
The $2.8 billion Mott Foundation lists the environment, including "addressing the freshwater challenge," as one of its grant-making priorities. But the foundation’s chairman, William S. White, also serves as board chairman for U.S. Sugar, a Florida company that Everglades advocates say has contributed to the degradation of the area.
The Everglades Trust, which focuses on restoration, took out full-page ads in The New York Times on Tuesday and in the Miami Herald on Wednesday, calling it "baffling and ironic" that Mott has not used its influence at U.S. Sugar to make changes to farming practices that would improve the health of the Everglades.
Lisa Ranghelli, director of foundation assessment at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, says the Everglades Trust made a smart move in publicizing the dispute after years of trying and failing to secure a meeting with Mr. White.
"Foundations aren’t accustomed to being called out in a public way — it’s not part of the culture of philanthropy," Ms. Ranghelli says. "I think it’s very refreshing. I hope more people feel emboldened to call out foundations when they undermine their impact with the investments they make."
Twice in the past two years, protesters have gathered outside the offices of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in Seattle, to call on the company to divest investments — in 2014 of its holdings in a private prison and in 2015 of its holdings in fossil-fuel companies.
Mott officials didn’t return The Chronicle's phone calls. U.S. Sugar officials say they have met with the Everglades Trust multiple times in the past and that sugar farmers have given up nearly 120,000 acres of land to assist with restoration efforts.
Mary Barley, president of the Everglades Trust, says her group timed the ads — which were structured as an open letter to Mr. White — to coincide with the Environmental Grantmakers Association meeting in Miami this week. A Mott staff member serves on the association’s board.
"How dare they come here to an environmental grant-makers conference and act like they’re doing the right thing when they’re not," says Ms. Barley. "If their peers don’t care, OK, but there are a lot of people in Florida who do care."
Ms. Ranghelli says the ads were well timed. "Foundations do care about what their peers think," she says.
The ad also puts pressure on the Environmental Grantmakers Association to devote more attention to the broader issue of foundations holding investments that may subvert grant-making goals, she says.
"I hope that any funder affinity group would use something like this as an opportunity to have an open conversation," Ms. Ranghelli says. "It doesn’t mean that they have to call out a peer. But they could arrange for an open conversation around the question, ‘What does it meant to have investments that may work against our values and our mission?’"
That topic wasn’t on the agenda for the Miami meeting that ended Wednesday, and it wasn’t clear whether the topic came up informally. The Chronicle's calls to Environmental Grantmakers weren’t immediately returned.