What looked like a good story for the reliable Smoking Gun website has kind of backfired. These things happen, as we all know. But the Smoking Gun’s assertion that Jane Fonda’s personal foundation was not in compliance with IRS law was incorrect as it turns out. Fonda’s lawyer Barry Hirsch confirmed to me last night that the foundation is “in compliance.”
The Smoking Gun was worried that Fonda not doling out large donations put her in legal peril. They also questioned what was going on.
Hirsch pointed out that Fonda had made enough sizable donations prior to 2006 that they carried her through the last year. In addition, Fonda’s office supplied a list of charitable donations the speaker/activist/actress/author has made from 2004 through 2013. They include:
Emory University – The Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health
Thomasville Community Resource Center
Upaya Zen Center
Pecos Valley Cowboy Church
Rosie’s Theatre Kids
Women’s Media Center
Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (name change in 2013 to Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential)
Teen Services Program – Grady Health System
Also of note is this description of regulations covering private foundations per Wikipedia. Apparently the rules are different than they are for large public fundraising organizations. I didn’t know that myself. Live and learn:
The Tax Reform Act of 1969 defined the fundamental social contract offered to private foundations. In exchange for exemption from paying most taxes and for limited tax benefits being offered to donors, a private foundation must (a) pay out at least 5% of the value of its endowment each year, none of which may be to the private benefit of any individual; (b) not own or operate significant for-profit businesses; (c) file detailed public annual reports and conduct annual audits in the same manner as a for-profit corporation; (d) meet a suite of additional accounting requirements unique to nonprofits.
Administrative and operating expenses count towards the 5% requirement; they range from trivial at small unstaffed foundations, to more than half a percent of the endowment value at larger staffed ones. Congressional proposals to exclude those costs from the payout requirement typically receive much attention during boom periods when foundation endowments are earning investment returns much greater than 5% (such as the late 1990s); the idea typically fades when foundation endowments are shrinking in a down market (such as 2001-2003).