Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation: Making the UN a Pawn for Tax-Exempt Special Interests

Almost 18 months after Time-Warner vice-chairman Ted Turner announced he would give $1 billion to the United Nations, serious questions remain about the nature and influence of his "gift."

One concern is technical and legal: Turner’s money is being channeled to the UN through a private foundation and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. But the UN is strictly prohibited by its own charter from accepting contributions not from member nations. Questions raised about this practice have not been fully answered by the UN.

Another concern is legislative and constitutional: Turner’s United Nations Foundation has very close ties to the Clinton administration and appears to be furthering the interests of certain State Department officials. Could Turner’s foundation be using private funds to help federal bureaucrats skirt funding roadblocks erected by Congress?

The final concern is political: Turner’s financial support for UN activities threatens to exert undue influence over UN policy and international relations. As is typical for the outspoken billionaire, the activities funded by Turner’s foundation are controversial and even raise serious human rights concerns. Moreover, in some cases, they ignore official U.S. policy to pursue the personal agendas of the foundation’s trustees.

No Surprises

When Turner announced his $1 billion donation last September, the media described the gift in glowing terms. Turner would help the UN with much-needed funds to take care of children, women and the environment.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Turner a "world citizen extra-ordinaire." The New York Times described the proposal as "probably the single largest charitable donation in history." And it earned Turner a cover story in Newsweek, which quoted him as saying he was "putting the rich on notice" to follow his lead. There was even talk that Turner might be awarded the Nobel Prize.

But when Foundation Watch took a closer look at Turner’s plans in December 1997, we characterized Turner’s gift as "an opportunity to pursue his liberal social agenda through a powerful association of national governments." The UN Foundation was never intended to serve the UN members’ interests or needs, but to expand UN programs on population control, environmental regulation and other personal interests of Turner’s.

The media mogul’s leftist political views are well-known. He is one of many who slept in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House because of his strong support for President Bill Clinton. He has associated with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who allowed Turner’s Cable News Network (CNN) to become the first U.S.-based news organization with a Havana bureau since the Communist takeover. Turner’s wife, actress Jane Fonda, achieved notoriety for supporting the Communist side during the Vietnam war.

However, Turner’s personal politics may not be the only driving force behind the UN Foundation. Certainly the timing of his gift fueled the battle in Congress over U.S. payment of its alleged $1.5 billion debt to the UN. Clinton administration officials and others who advocate more UN funding may see the UN Foundation as a way to support activities not currently funded by UN member states, especially the U.S.

Indeed, Turner announced his gift at a dinner sponsored by the United Nations Association of the U.S., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that raises private funds and advocates more federal support for UN activities. In recent years, the UN Association has complained bitterly about the U.S. failure to pay its "debt" to the UN. The Association has even urged consideration of a global tax to alleviate the UN’s financial problems.

Elaborate Structure

The UN Foundation’s first year of operation has provided clues to its structure and relationship with the UN, but many questions remain unanswered.

Turner’s gift, it turns out, is not as generous as described in media reports. An amount of up to $1 billion will be donated in the form of Time-Warner stock in ten annual installments. The cost to Turner could be significantly less than $1 billion if he takes advantage of tax write-offs, tax deductions and ways to avoid estate taxes. Amazingly, USA Today claims "Turner, or at least his heirs, could end up $100 million richer because he’s giving a billion away."

Moreover, the donation will be made not to the UN directly, but to Turner’s private UN Foundation. The foundation is tax-exempt under U.S. law and has no legal affiliation with the UN.

The UN and the UN Foundation have completed a 20-page agreement governing the use of foundation grants. According to the agreement, UN Secretary-General Annan will review grant applications before asking for approval from the UN Foundation board. But foundation grants will be disbursed by UN officials.

Annan has created his own bureaucracy to manage the money. The UN Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) is led by Miles Stoby of Guyana, the former Deputy Executive Coordinator for UN Reform. To demonstrate the importance of Ted Turner’s funds to the UN, Annan has announced that Stoby will report directly to him, and Stoby’s post will be at the level of Assistant Secretary-General.

The Better World Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit under the same leadership and trustees as the UN Foundation, will coordinate "public education" on behalf of the UN. It aims to create "a broader constituency of citizens, organizations and businesses with a deeper commitment to international cooperation through the United Nations."

The agreement was signed by Hans Corell, UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, and UN Foundation President Timothy Wirth. Atlanta attorney J. Rutherford Seydel II is listed as a recipient of any notices stemming from "disputes" between the foundation and UNFIP. Seydel is also listed in official papers as the legal representative for Jane Fonda’s new foundation. (See related article on page 1.) Any disputes will be resolved by an international arbitration panel.

The agreement offers no clues about the UN’s justification for accepting private foundation funds, which is a violation of the UN Charter. Article 17, Section 2 of the charter states that UN expenses "shall be borne by the Members as apportioned by the General Assembly." This requirement is supposed to prevent private interests like the UN Foundation from exercising undue influence over the world body.

This author has repeatedly asked UN officials and members of Congress to provide a legal justification for the UN’s acceptance of UN Foundation grants. Concerns about the foundation’s activities were first expressed in an October 1997 letter to Joe Sills, then director of the UN Information Office in Washington, DC:

"The UN Charter says the expenses of the organization shall be borne by the member-states. How, then, can the UN accept any money from a source outside of the member-states, such as a foundation, business or individual?

"What is the tax status of the UN in the U.S.? Can U.S. citizens make tax-deductible contributions to the UN?"

No answers have been provided, although the UN’s legal department is supposedly studying the matter. However, it is known that contributions to the UN are not tax-deductible in the U.S. — thus Turner’s elaborate setup to funnel $1 billion to the UN through a tax-exempt foundation.

Radical Leaders

The UN Foundation’s trustees share a globalist outlook, and most of them have a long association with the UN. The board includes Turner as chairman and Timothy Wirth as president.

Wirth is a former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs (1993-1997) and Colorado Democratic Senator (1987-1993). Before leaving the State Department, Wirth promoted the implementation of the global warming treaty. Even if the global warming theory is wrong, he has said, "we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy." A former official of Planned Parenthood in Colorado, Wirth is a crusader for population control and abortion rights.

The involvement of UN Foundation trustee Maurice Strong, long regarded as a possible candidate for UN Secretary-General, is also significant. The Canadian, a longtime friend of Turner and Wirth, has been involved in UN activities for more than 30 years. In 1997, Strong served as Executive Coordinator for UN Reform under Annan, and his deputy was UNFIP director Miles Stoby. He also chaired the 1992 Earth Summit.

During the early 1990s, Strong was a key member of the independent Commission on Global Governance, an international organization funded by the MacArthur Foundation. The Commission published the 1995 report Our Global Neighborhood, calling for a vast expansion of UN resources and activities through the imposition of a global tax. (See Foundation Watch, September 1996.)

A wealthy Canadian who lived in Colorado in the 1980s, Strong came under scrutiny by the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight during its campaign finance investigation in 1997. Strong, who is not a U.S. citizen, made a $20,000 contribution to the Democratic National Committee and gave $1,500 to two congressional campaigns in 1988. Strong said he made the contributions "because I wanted influence in the United States." But U.S. law prohibits contributions by foreign nationals unless they have a green card and intend to make the U.S. their permanent residence.

Interestingly, Strong’s activities in Colorado also included formation of a group called the North American Institute to encourage passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). One of those involved in the effort was John Wirth, brother of Timothy.

Other UN Foundation trustees include Brazilian first lady Ruth Cardoso, an international AIDS activist and a participant in the UN’s 1996 Habitat II conference; Graca Machel, the former first lady of Mozambique and a UN-designated children’s rights advocate; Emma Rothschild, a British associate of Strong who champions environment and disarmament causes; Andrew Young, U.S. ambassador to the UN during the Carter administration; and Pakistani Muhammad Yunus, an economist who has accused financial institutions of shortchanging the poor.

Target: Human Race

The first round of 22 UN Foundation grants was announced on May 20, 1998 and totaled almost $22.2 million. Another round of 17 grants was announced last September, totalling more than $32.8 million. The grants confirm the Foundation’s liberal bent and selective grantmaking.

Two UN agencies received more than 50 percent of the first-year grants: the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) received almost $12.2 million, and $18.6 million went to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Both agencies are involved in controversial projects to encourage and assist abortions and other population control measures.

Another big recipient of UN Foundation funds is the World Health Organization (WHO), which is linked to UNICEF and UNFPA through a "Coordinating Committee on Health." Last year, WHO received two UN Foundation grants totalling almost $9 million. An additional grant worth $2.8 million was awarded jointly to WHO and UNICEF.

It is no surprise that a sizeable portion of the UN Foundation’s grants support UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO. These agencies have been criticized for their population control activities and complacency regarding human rights abuses, and from the outset Turner announced that his foundation would support population control.

Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon asked in a May 5, 1998 Wall Street Journal column whether the UN was being manipulated by Turner and his associates to maintain an aggressive campaign to reduce the human population "by any means possible."

Examples of UN Foundation grants supporting population control include UNFPA grants for "the delivery of family planning services" to reduce high fertility rates in Bolivia, the Comoros, Lebanon and the Philippines. Other grants encourage journalists to cover population control issues and target adolescent girls for family planning services.

Turner has a long history of support for population control activities. Turner and wife Jane Fonda served as "Goodwill Ambassadors" for UNFPA. Fonda now leads a Georgia campaign against teen pregnancy, partly funded by a private condom maker.

According to Nicholas Eberstadt, a population expert with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Turner is on record in favor of a radical policy that Eberstadt calls "de-population." As recently as last month, the father of five children called for a worldwide one-child-per-family policy to reduce the world population. "We could do it in a very humane way, if everybody adopted a one-child policy for 100 years," Turner told participants at the annual meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association in Washington, D.C.

Once honored as "Humanist of the Year" by the American Humanist Association, Turner’s stridency on population control has earned him a reputation as an anti-Christian bigot. In remarks last October to the Society of Environmental Journalists, he complained that the Judeo-Christian tradition emphasizes "dominion over everything" and "increase and multiply." Turner once told a Dallas Morning News reporter that Christianity is "a religion for losers" and "I don’t want anybody [i.e., Jesus Christ] to die for me."

Wirth also is no stranger to population control efforts. In addition to his Planned Parenthood work in Colorado, Wirth led the State Depart-ment’s defense of a Clinton administration decision to deport several Chinese women who sought asylum in the U.S. to avoid forced abortion and sterilization in their native country.

At the urging of Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, Congress has cut off federal funds for UNFPA because the agency has been accused of compliance with the brutal Chinese population control program of one-child-per-family. Congressional hearings have disclosed that the Chinese government has forced many women to have abortions when they exceeded their one-child limit. Some women have testified that they were physically assaulted and forced to undergo abortions when they tried to carry a second child to term. In some cases, baby girls were allegedly abandoned or starved to death in government-run orphanages because of China’s cultural preference for male children.

Congressman Smith says UNFPA also has supplied abortion devices and drugs to refugees, displaced persons and "other poor and vulnerable women around the world."

UNICEF has been under increasing scrutiny since the Vatican decided two years ago to withdraw its support for the agency because of its involvement in population control programs. The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, a UN-recognized non-governmental organization (NGO), observes, "Particular concern has centered on UNICEF’s involvement in the drafting of a field manual for use by relief workers in refugee camps. The manual specifically called for the provision of vacuum aspirators that are used for abortions." UNICEF is headed by an ardent feminist, Carol Bellamy, a former New York City official and Democratic mayoral candidate.

Lack of Funds?

Many UN Foundation grants to UNFPA and UNICEF do not reflect an aggressive population control agenda. For example, some grants support UNICEF for "the eradication of polio" and for distributing "vitamin supplements to save mothers’ lives." WHO was granted almost $5.2 million as part of the UN Foundation program "Global Health Leadership for the 21st Century." This is described as a partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and the UN Foundation to support WHO director-general Gro Brundtland "in her efforts to revitalize the organization," which has been plagued by scandal and corruption.

But critics complain that such grants, even when they support laudable efforts, still help underwrite population control activities. Indeed, when the Vatican requested that its financial contributions to UNICEF be directed into projects with no relation to abortion, UNICEF officials said they could not comply. The problem is that grants to UN agencies are "fungible," meaning that despite their intended purposes, they free up funds in agency budgets so officials can reallocate revenues to population control efforts.

The likelihood of shifting such funds increases if there are severe budget constraints, as UNICEF and UNFPA leaders claim. Shortly after Turner’s announcement of his $1 billion gift, officials of these two agencies and the UN Development Program (UNDP) issued a statement saluting Turner’s "extremely generous and socially conscious decision." They claimed the funds would arrive at a "crucial moment" for the UN as it grapples with "dwindling resources to meet a growing array of vital needs." The implication was that Turner’s private funds might fill the gap created by a failure or reluctance of UN member governments to fund those agencies.

The alleged funding gap may also explain the U.S. State Department’s close connection to UN Foundation efforts. Because Timothy Wirth leads the foundation, some communication with the Clinton administration is to be expected. But could the State Department be influencing the UN Foundation to provide private funds for programs and policies that are opposed by influential members of Congress whom the Administration does not want to confront?

A recent encounter suggests the relationship is worthy of investigation. At a January 15 press conference on population matters in Washington, D.C., Wirth associate Ellen Marshall appeared with Frank E. Loy, Wirth’s successor as Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs. Marshall, who is responsible for women’s issues at the UN Foundation, left the Clinton State Department with Wirth.

At the press conference, Marshall described the UN Foundation’s $1.1 million grant for an NGO and Youth forum held the previous month in The Hague, Netherlands to review the platform of the controversial 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo. The grant was meant to enable the NGOs to review the ICPD platform and work on strategies to implement the Cairo platform. It was funneled through UNFPA.

Marshall said she helped draft a controversial presidential decision directive (PDD) on population issues when she was a State Department official. The June 1, 1994 PDD proposed to reduce "the rate of population growth as rapidly as possible to levels consistent with sustainable development" through close cooperation with the UN. The document said the U.S. would continue to support "population assistance programs" primarily through the Agency for International Development, and would provide "adequate resources" to UNFPA, WHO and other UN agencies.

But Marshall said the State Depart-ment’s draft PDD on population issues was abandoned in favor of adopting the official "program of action" of the Cairo conference as official U.S. policy. This platform stopped just short of endorsing abortion as a method of family planning because of the opposition of the Vatican and some Third World countries.

According to Marshall, "There was a great deal of work done trying to reassess what the policy should be. That also happened to coincide with the International Conference on Population and Development. So rather than have a U.S. policy on international [population issues], the United States participated in this international discussion and looked to the ICPD program of action as its official position. So while there is no PDD, there is the United States endorsing the ICPD program of action as its policy statement.... It was a very conscious decision."

It is clear that when the UN Foundation supported the Netherlands follow-up conference, Marshall as a private foundation official was furthering a population policy she developed and the State Department endorsed through the UN conference. But the State Department’s apparent deference to a private grantmaker for help with funding its agenda — which includes activities opposed by influential members of Congress — raises important questions about the relationship of the UN Foundation and the Clinton administration.

Greening the Earth

The UN Foundation is also using its grants to assist UN efforts to secure compliance with the global warming treaty, also known as the Kyoto Protocol.

Last year, the foundation granted $1 million to the UN Industrial Development Organization and more than $1.2 million to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. The grants support creation of an emissions-trading system, a concept backed by the White House as part of the global warming treaty. The system would allow U.S. firms to exceed UN treaty limits on fossil fuel emissions by purchasing pollution credits from other countries or transferring technology to the Third World. One element of the project — "assistance to governments in defining adequate domestic regulatory and supervisory frameworks" — suggests the extent to which UN Foundation money will subsidize government regulatory agencies.

The UN Foundation has committed another $900,000 for "Post-Kyoto Climate Change Policies" in China. The grant will support the development of public policies to reduce "greenhouse" gas emissions. The funds will be channeled through the World Resources Institute (WRI) and UNDP, which is headed by Clinton appointee and WRI founder James Gustave Speth. Speth is reportedly leaving his UNDP post in June to help Vice President Gore run for president.

There is a serious political problem with the UN Foundation’s grants: they support the implementation of a treaty that has not been ratified by — or even submitted to — the U.S. Senate. Most observers say that the pact, if submitted, would fail by a wide margin because it could cripple our industrial economy, while major fossil fuel emitters like China flatly refuse to sign or abide by it.

Other UN Foundation grants for environmental projects are less controversial. A $650,000 grant to the UN Environment Program (UNEP) supports efforts to reduce the impact of El Nino-related emergencies, and a $2.4 million grant helps African cities to develop better water management systems. But what can be expected from a $350,000 grant to let young people assess the state of the global environment?

Controversial Grants

Turner has never been afraid to leap into controversy, and the UN Foundation has followed his lead. While many of the 1998 foundation grants support worthy projects — like eradicating Guinea Worm disease in Africa or fighting slave and drug trafficking — some grants deserve closer inspection.

For example, a 1998 grant made jointly to WHO and UNICEF supports their efforts to promote "long-term strategies" to ensure "tobacco-free children and youth." No doubt the U.S. tobacco control movement is going global. Once again, children are the excuse for new taxes and regulation on the tobacco industry. The UN Foundation claims "this project is the single largest grant ever made to prevent and discourage international tobacco use among children and adolescents."

On the other hand, another UN Foundation grant is promising despite some controversy. The grant provides more than $3 million over two years to UNICEF for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS in Africa and Asia. The disease is a major problem in Third World countries, and the most tragic victims are the young. Babies whose mothers are HIV-positive have about a 28 percent chance of contracting the virus through breast milk.

Since last June, UNICEF has launched pilot projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America which support HIV-positive women who choose not to breast-feed. With UN Foundation funding, UNICEF counsels mothers about the risk of HIV transmission through breast-feeding and provides milk substitutes "for up to six months if necessary."

Thus UNICEF and the UN Foundation seem to be moving in a direction encouraged by groups like the Foundation for Democracy in Africa, which accuses UNICEF of helping to spread AIDS under its former policy of promoting breast-feeding exclusively. In this case, the UN Foundation may be having a positive impact on the policies of a UN agency.


Ted Turner’s dedication to the UN is well-known. He flies the UN flag over CNN Center in Atlanta and bans the use of the word "foreign" on CNN broadcasts.

But while Turner’s money could prove successful in revitalizing controversial UN agencies, it could also lead to increasing private involvement in the affairs of the world organization. Indeed, some have suggested using private funds to alleviate all the UN’s financial problems, including the so-called U.S. "debt."

For political reasons, Secretary-General Annan has ruled that out, saying that UN Foundation grants will not offset America’s $1.5 billion debt because the world body cannot accept contributions from private citizens for that purpose. But if this is true, how can private citizens make contributions to the UN for any purpose at all?

Private funding for the UN makes congressional attempts to de-fund the UN or its agencies almost irrelevant. This might cheer supporters of privatization or implacable opponents of the UN. But is also undercuts those who hope U.S. government financial pressure might force much-needed UN reforms. A few billionaires could further the transformation of the UN from a collection of member-states to the pawn of tax-exempt special interests. That, of course, is a serious threat to American interests and perhaps to the UN itself.

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