Friday, March 24, 2006

Unjust Enrichment?

I like Barbara Bush. I like the Bush Clinton Katrina fund. I like the idea of helping those who were displaced by nature's actions. I especially like that a person with the financial means to do so made a monetary donation to the relief efforts, because it takes money to make the efforts work, so Kudos to Barbara Bush for that.

Here's my only gripe. She made the donation on condition that it be used on Ignite Learning programs for education. That in and of itself is not so bad; the disagreeable part to me is that this is that the company she wants the funds used on is owned by her son Neil. Now, she didn't specify that all the money she donated go toward her son's company, only some undisclosed amount; the rest was not dedicated to anything in particular.

I want to be clear here about one thing: I don't presume that Mrs. Bush partook of impropriety. It's also unclear that this would enrich Neil at all. However, that is less important than the appearance of impropriety that is connected with her actions. If she felt so strongly about the education programs, she could have just as easily purchased the programs herself and donated the purchases to the relief efforts. As it is, charitable donations will be used to purchase a program owned by the son of the person making the donations, which looks bad, regardless of actual intent.


Bookworm said...

Did she disclose up front that the donations will go, in part, to her son's organization (as opposed to just a specifically named organization)? I think that would make a difference. I don't mind that people have their agendas; it's when people hide their agendas that I get unhappy.

nuje said...

Steve, you're kidding, right? You're doing that devils advocate thing like always? Right?

Steve said...


The article I linked says that she gave "specific instructions that the money be spent with an educational software company owned by her son."

Her spokesperson said that (Barbara) knew that the program was being used by HISD and that (Barbara) wanted to expand the use of the program.


I'm not advocating here, and in fact I never accused Mrs. Bush of anything. What I said was that there comes with an action involving specific instructions such as this can carry an appearance of impropriety. I will go no further than that, because I don't see anything wrong with the donation. I see a potential problem with the manner in which it went through in that from one angle it looks bad. That's all.

English Professor said...

Steve, I just saw this news myself. Evidently Neil and Ignite Learning have already caused some ethical concerns in Houston.

"Two years ago, the Houston school district board wrestled with conflict of interest concerns over the Ignite program. Neil Bush had helped raise $115,000 for the district's philanthropic fund from donors who insisted the money be spent on his company's software.
The district accepted the donations and used them to pay half the costs of new Ignite software, about $10,000 per school."