Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Hearings

The prepared statements for today's Senate Finance Hearings are, for the most part, up on the committee's hearing website.
I wasn't able to listen to the actual testimony today, so I'll be interested to hear what was said during the question and answer period. From the tone of the opening statements, I'd say The Nature Conservancy was in for a pretty good whacking, but probably not a fatal one. TNC president's Steve McCormick's statement was appropriately contrite, but I imagine he still had to face some fairly sharp questioning.
Committee Chairman Charles Grassley acknowledges the new reality of non-profits.Charities have gone far beyond raising money by just having Santa ring a bell. Santa now is often engagin some of our nation’s top tax lawyers and accountants with the sharpest pencils.
There was also an examination of completely shady practices on land transactions by the Department of Interior that Chairman Grassley says go beyond anything he has seen at Interior. Referring to the Inspector General who investigated the deals, he says "To be candid, Mr. Devaney, I thought you had already found the bottom of the cesspool when it comes to land transactions at Interior, but this new report shows that it is even deeper than we first thought. It appears that since the mid-1990's, the Department of Interior has basically thrown out the rules book when it comes to this deal for Florida mineral rights."
There are details of the shady practices attached, including our first look at the controversial deal by The Nature Conservancy to allow oil and gas drilling on donated land meant to protect the Attwaters Prairie Chicken. It's an interesting read. You can see why TNC felt it was okay to get into the deal, how it got in over its head in the oil and gas business, and ended up getting badly burned, although it earned a handsome profit. If you don't have time to read anything else, read the internal memo on the deal
Jon at The Uneasy Chair found a good summary by the Journal of Philantrophy


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