The Ted Stevens Foundation was founded in 2000 aiming to serve a variety of admirable causes and work on "educating and informing the public about the career of Senator Ted Stevens." The extent of its charitable work now looks questionable and after filing a FOIA request with Alaska, the Sunlight Foundation
discovered that the group has failed to pay its dues and register with the state for last three years.
A shortage of money isn't their excuse. Back in 2005 The Ted Stevens Foundation, which was renamed North to the Future Foundation last year, had net assets of $1.7 million in 2004 and $2.3 million in 2005.
Besides spreading the word about Stevens' accomplishments, the group also aims "to make grants to other public charities and to provide programs which educate, encourage communication, relieve poverty and promote community welfare throughout the state of Alaska and the United States.â
How successful has it been at giving out money? According to Sunlight's research:
Between 2003 and 2005 the foundation has spent more than $380,000 on fundraisers but has given out only two grants: one for $40,000 to the Smithsonian Institute in 2004 and $10,000 to the Anchorage Rowing Association in 2005, according to the 990s.
So, then, what does this non-profit actually do? Back in 2004 The Washington Post
ran an editorial taking a guess at the real purpose: to shake down lobbyists for the benefit of sitting politicians.
At an event held at the Capital Hilton in 2004, The Ted Stevens Foundation aimed raise $2 million with tables going for $50,000 each. Some lucky donors had a VIP at their table -- one of the two thirds of the Senate members that attended. At the time, Stevens was the chair of the Appropriations Committee and lobbyists were happy to donate to his "charity" for a little time by his ear.
The Washington Post editorial cuts at the heart of the problem with this kind of a "non-profit":
When foundations like this are set up for the benefit of sitting lawmakers, requests for contributions have the inevitable air of a shakedown: What lobbyist with an interest in appropriations matters would fail to give to Mr. Stevens's charity? Meanwhile, the money can come from corporations that are prohibited from giving directly to the senator's reelection campaign, and in far larger denominations than ordinary campaign contributions. All of this activity is subsidized by the taxpayers, since contributions to the fund are tax-deductible. Most disturbing of all, the Stevens foundation -- unlike some of the other charities with ties to lawmakers -- doesn't plan to disclose its donors or the amounts they give.