Funders Behind NYPD’s Mysterious Private ‘Counter-Terrorism’ Foundation

03/12/2011 14:42

When the New York City police department (NYPD) wanted to bring a terrorism expert on board in 2008 to teach about homegrown terror, it turned to Marc Sageman, a well-regarded terrorism expert who works at a right-leaning think tank. The gig, as reported that year by the Associated Press, paid Sageman well. The AP article aslo mentioned, in passing, a strange twist to Sageman’s work:

Dr. Sageman’s residency at the nation’s largest police department began in May and will last a year, with a private foundation paying his $180,000 salary.

This week, at the website NYPD Confidential, Leonard Levitt reported that it appears that the NYPD themselves set up a private foundation which then paid Sageman. Levitt reported that two of the three officers at the non-profit foundation, the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation, are civilian city police officials. But, as a registered tax-exempt non-profit, the foundation raises money from private sources. Levitt tracked the contributions, though not their origins, and found that the foundation had raised nearly $300,000 in total. He wrote that “this seems to be the first time that the NYPD, a municipal agency, has, albeit under the cover of two civilian officials, formed its own private foundation to fund one of its programs”:

This raises troubling questions about the unnamed donor or donors. Do they get special treatment from the NYPD? Do they get special access to Commissioner Ray Kelly for having funded what appears to be one of his pet projects?

Through an investigation of publicly-available tax filings, ThinkProgress was able to ascertain where some –though not all — of the funding comes from. Five foundations gave a total of $112,000 to the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation. They are large foundations with huge bankrolls, including one so-called “donor-advised fund,” where donors give to the charity and direct their money to certain grants. Many of the donors come from the ranks of New York’s financial industry. Among other things, some of the philanthropic giants have funded right-wing pro-Israel projects.

Here’s a quick run-down of the foundations, how much they gave, and little background on them:

THE GOTTESMAN FUND: David Gottesman, a manager of his family foundation, was an early Berkshire Hathaway investor, founded First Manhattan, and is reportedly worth $1.5 billion. The foundation gave $50,000 to the NYPD Conter-Terrorism Foundation. It also gave to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and the Israel Project.

THE JEWISH COMMUNAL FUND: This foundation is a behemoth, a so-called “donor-advised” fund with more than a billion dollars in assets in 2007. “The grants that we make are on the recommendation of our donors,” foundation vice president Susan Dickman told ThinkProgress. “So one of our donors directed that donation and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about why.” She declined to name the donor that set aside $27,000 for the NYPD Counter-Terror Foundation in 2007. The Communal Fund gives to a host of hawkish Middle East causes.

THE HAMMERMAN AND FISCH FOUNDATION: Foundation trustee Stephen Hammerman, a former NYPD commissioner of legal affairs, also serves as the director and president of the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation. The latter received $25,000 from the Hammerman and Fisch Foundation in 2009.

THE KOMANSKY FOUNDATION: Foundation president David Komansky, now with BlackRock, was a longtime executive and chairman of the board at Merrill Lynch. John Dadakis, the treasurer of the Komansky Foundation, also serves as a director and secretary of the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation, which received $5,000 from the Komansky Foundation in 2009.

THE MARK AND ANLA CHENG KINGDON FUND: A foundation named for married hedge-funders — Mark Kingdon, the founder and president of Kingdon Capital, and Anla Cheng of Centenium Capital — gave $5,000 to the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation in 2007. They also give to Daniel PipesMiddle East Forum and the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

These large foundations give to a variety of philanthropic causes. But, given the NYPD’s recent history of invasive practices against Muslim communities, that a few of them give to hawkish right-wing Middle East groups does raise some questions.

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