A report by the hard-left Institute for Policy Studies that 25 corporate CEOs earned more than their companies paid in taxes has attracted a surprising amount of press coverage. The Washington Post has an article by Peter Whoriskey, Politico has a dispatch by Mackenzie Weinger, the New York Times has a story by David Kocieniewski, public radio's "Marketplace" program has a piece by Eve Troeh, and Bloomberg has an article by Andrew Zajac.
Of these five articles, four — all but Bloomberg News — described the IPS's political leanings. Marketplace called it "liberal-leaning," Politico called it "left-leaning," the Washington Post called it "liberal," and the New York Times called it "liberal-leaning." (None asked what's "liberal" about an organization that's partnered with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which would replace Israel with a Hamas-run state that jails homosexuals and bans women from driving, but that's a separate issue.) Two — the New York Times and the Washington Post — included some reaction from the corporations being criticized. And exactly zero of the articles pointed out the hypocrisy of the Institute for Policy Studies, which as a non-profit not only pays no taxes itself at the corporate level but funds itself by offering tax deductions to donors, complaining about corporate taxes and compensation.
Among the Institute for Policy Studies' big funders is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which gave IPS a $100,000 grant for "salary support for a communications director" and "communications capacity building." It sure looks like the Rockefeller Brothers got their money worth, because the press is out writing about the compensations and taxes of corporations and CEOs, rather than about the tax-free nature of the $729 million Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which spends a lot of money on keeping the neighborhood around where the Rockefellers live up in the Hudson Valley really nice, and which paid its executive director, Charles Granquist, compensation of $207,786 plus $60,289 in contribution to employee benefit plan or deferred compensation.
Another IPS funder is the $2.1 billion Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which gave IPS $200,000 for research on "responses to the economic crisis and global climate change." The Mott Foundation's president, William S. White, earned $500,000 in 2009 plus $617,124 in contributions to employee benefit plans. A footnote helpfully explains that Mr. White's benefits "include a $593,026 pension plan accrual" and that "the pension benefit is projected based on an actuarial calculation, which due to abnormally low interest rates, produced a very low benefit in 2008. With interest rates substantially higher in 2009, the calculation produced a substantially higher benefit in 2009."
IPS's other big funders include the ARCA Foundation, the HKH Foundation and the Tides Foundation (where Seagram heir Joanie Bronfman is a board member and Lehman Brothers heir Peter Buttenweiser is also reportedly involved). The JKW Foundation (MCA heir Jean Stein and her daughter Katrina vanden Huevel, who is an IPS board member) kicks in about $25,000 a year.
A liberal might say the whole thing is an argument for a loop-hole-proof estate tax, but the impression I get is of a lot of people whose families made a lot of money in the past getting together today and using tax-exempt money to try to try to make it harder for those of us who are trying to make a lot of money now or in the future. This is somewhat similar to Warren Buffett, who is giving most of his money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, running around calling for higher taxes, but at least Mr. Buffett built his fortune himself. If the tax-exempt foundations (and their allies in the tax-exempt universities) keep pressing for higher taxes on American corporations and individuals, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a movement build (or at least some "reports" issued) calling for higher taxes on university and foundation endowments.