Meet MacKenzie Scott, our new good billionaire
With Bill Gates’ reputation as our foremost philanthropist threatened by high-profile allegations of inappropriate behavior towards women, billionaire MacKenzie Scott could take over as the new “good billionaire” – the super-rich model citizen whose charity charity justifies the existence of the billionaire class.
Armed with the stock fortune from Amazon that she obtained during her divorce from Jeff Bezos, her personal fortune is currently estimated at $ 65 billion—Scott has received widespread accolades for his recent philanthropic giving, including $ 2.75 billion last month to “historically underfunded and neglected” groups. These unconditional gifts, Scott noted in an article on Way, were rewarded with “the humble conviction that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a few hands”.
The donations were widely and favorably presented by the news media, with a editorial in The New York Times arguing that other billionaires should be more like Scott, “pay their fair share” and hyper aware of their privilege.
But this adulation itself overlooked the contradictions of her philanthropic giving, which seem far more similar than different from those of her fellow billionaires: stuffed with tax benefits, based on ill-gotten gains, utterly undemocratic and unlikely to ever threaten MacKenzie Scott’s hold on the upper echelons of the super-rich.
And if we removed the rose-colored lenses from our glasses, we might even sometimes view Scott’s philanthropy as selfish, such as his decision to donate large sums of money to support the affluent and professional class of advisers, consultants and the media. which advance and defend the particular interests of Great Philanthropy.
Two of these recipients, the United Philanthropy Forum and the Independent Sector, are currently using their political clout to to oppose a congressional effort to impose new accountability and transparency requirements on charitable giving.
Such opposition aligns closely with Scott’s own efforts to avoid checks and balances. During her short tenure as a philanthropist, Scott refused to divulge even the most basic information about her donations, such as the amount of money she gives to each recipient or how she decides who her organization’s worthy claimants are. charitable. She also does not answer journalists’ questions and does not engage in external criticism. Even though Scott receives significant tax benefits from his charity, the public is apparently not allowed to examine his philanthropic donations.
One of the only things we know about Scott’s charitable giving is that she works closely with the Bridgespan Group, a little-known nonprofit affiliate of the consulting giant. Bain & Company.
Bridgespan almost certainly pocketed Scott’s hefty consulting fees – the company wouldn’t confirm or deny that – and could cultivate other lucrative sources of income from the relationship as well. Notably, Scott, while being advised by Bridgespan, donated money to at least eight of the recent clients-as well as Bridgespan itself.
One of these clients is the association Blue Meridian Partners, which works closely with some of the world’s richest donors to make philanthropic giving or, as the group calls them, “investments.” The newest from Blue Meridian annual tax return reports awarding Bridgespan a $ 3.5 million contract and a $ 2.5 million grant in 2020. The following year Scott, while being advised by Bridgespan, donated at least 50 million dollars to Blue Meridian.
Bridgespan declined to answer most questions or comment on her relationship with Scott, but rebuffed the idea that she was directing Scott’s money to her clients.
“Over the past 21 years, we’ve worked with over a thousand compelling and capable nonprofits, so it’s no surprise that some are on a donor’s list of grants,” he said. said a spokesperson.
Scott could not be reached to answer questions about the emergence of financial conflicts in his charitable model or the powerful and opaque role professional consultants play in guiding the distribution of his vast wealth.
Granted, Scott’s donations to Bridgespan and Blue Meridian seem at odds with his claimed commitment to helping the “underfunded and neglected.”
In its last annual tax return, from 2019, Span made $ 55 million in revenue while paying its president $ 566,173 a year – and those numbers are likely to rise significantly in the years to come thanks to his work with Scott. Blue meridian, meanwhile, reports $ 900 million in revenue in its latest deposits, while its CEO earns more than $ 600,000 per year.
Scott has also funded other well-heeled groups, such as the Rockefeller Philanthropy Consultants, which rakes in $ 200 million in revenue a year and pays its CEO $ 526,000. Third sector, a consulting firm, receives a modest $ 11 million per year and pays its CEO $ 300,000 per year.
Another recipient of Scott’s gift, the Solutions Journalism Network, already receives millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation and its work is often aimed at enhancing the role of philanthropy in the news media. The group’s co-founders, David Bornstein and Elizabeth Rosenberg, for example, have on several occasions written favorably about Gates in The New York Times.
Scott’s funding of these groups – what one might call the philanthropy-industrial complex – effectively extends the institutional power of Big Philanthropy, which also extends its own influence. And she does it at the same time as her personal wealth increases.
Earlier this week, like Bloomberg reported, the surge in Amazon’s stock price had the effect of increasing Scott’s personal wealth by $ 2.9 billion in a single day-effectively erasing its recent donation of $ 2.7 billion. And since 2019, when Scott divorced Jeff Bezos and embarked on his new career as a philanthropist, his personal fortune has nearly doubled from around $ 36 billion at $ 65 billion.
Despite his widely cited promise to continue to make charitable donations ”until the safe is empty, ”So far, his philanthropy has not really dented his accumulated wealth.
And this expanding fortune comes from a company that exercises monopoly power in the market, pays very little tax, and combats union organizing efforts to correct widely reported work abuses. These business practices can improve Amazon’s bottom line and enrich Scott, but how do they support his charitable mission to support fairness and justice?
This is one of the many questions we cannot ask Scott.
MacKenzie Scott may look and feel like a new kind of billionaire, but we would do well to examine his actions and follow the money instead of gleefully praising his words and trusting his promises. Until Scott truly opens his safe and takes action to relinquish the privileges that come with being a billionaire, she should be questioned as an irresponsible, undemocratic figure – an oligarch or a plutocrat – and not exalted as a good billionaire.