Obama-Inspired Nonprofit to Set Own Rules on Fundraising

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U.S. President Barack Obama walks towards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House prior to his departure April 29, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Barack Obama won’t be involved in setting fundraising rules for a new nonprofit organization he unveiled Monday to help minority boys and young men.

The celebrities and corporate executives serving on the board of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, which Obama announced during an event at Lehman College in the Bronx, will determine if foreign governments or registered lobbyists can contribute to the project, the White House said.

“The Obama administration will have no role in deciding how donations are screened and what criteria they will set at the alliance,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One to New York.

My Brother’s Keeper Alliance suggests a post-presidency career for the nation’s first black president: steering money and resources into poverty-stricken urban communities. While the nonprofit is born from a White House program Obama began about a year ago, Earnest said he didn’t know the extent to which the president will be involved after he leaves office.

The group, inspired by a White House task force, will ensure that the work of trying boost educational and economic opportunities for minority youths can continue “long after I’ve left office,” Obama said at the rollout.

Baltimore Protests

The unveiling of the nonprofit group was scheduled before the unrest in Baltimore following the death of a black man from injuries he suffered while in police custody. Obama made reference to the protests and violence there as well as in other cities after the deaths of black men in encounters with police.

“There’s a tragic history in this country that’s made it tougher for some,” Obama said. “Those opportunity gaps begin early, often at birth, and they compound over time, becoming harder and harder to bridge.”

Obama also paid tribute to police officers who face deadly risks on the job, including a 25-year-old New York officer who died Monday after being shot while on duty over the weekend.

“They’ve got a tough job,” Obama said of police officers, adding that they are being asked to solve deep-seated and long-festering problems in many communities.

$80 Million

My Brother’s Keeper Alliance will be headed by Joe Echevarria, the former chief executive at Deloitte LLP, and has already received $80 million in commitments from firms including American Express Co., Ariel Investments LLC, and PepsiCo Inc., according to the White House.

Corporate donations will fund some of its early initiatives, including as much as $7 million in grants for programs to support troubled youths and $3 million to build infrastructure in as many as nine communities, according to a White House statement. The White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force will continue while Obama’s in office.

The organization is drawing on star power for its board, including singer John Legend and former NBA star Alonzo Mourning. Corporate leaders including the chief executives of BET Holdings LLC, Sprint Corp., Prudential Group Insurance, Sam’s Club, the Libra Group and Legendary Entertainment will also be part of the alliance’s leadership.

Earnest said many of the board members helping to steer the alliance “are well aware of the priority the president has placed on transparency.”

Clinton’s Questions

Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state and the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, is facing questions about donations to her and her husband’s philanthropy, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

“It’s a hard tightrope to walk,” said Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group in Washington.

The president, who will be 55 when he leaves office, already has the Barack Obama Foundation, which was created in January 2014, to prepare for the philanthropic work that he and first lady Michelle Obama plan to pursue. During his second term, Obama has put an emphasis on helping minority youths stay in school, find jobs and avoid violence.

“This will remain an issue for me and for Michelle, not just for the remainder of the presidency but for the rest of my life,” Obama said.

In the twilight of his presidency, Obama faces a country in which income inequality and violence in urban communities increasingly dominate public discourse, punctuated by protests and sometimes unrest in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and New York City.

Obama also is burnishing his political legacy while in New York, raising money for the Democratic National Committee at two events. He’ll meet about 60 supporters contributing $10,000 each at the home of Loida Lewis, the widow of financier Reginald Lewis. A second event at the home of Advent Capital Management CEO Tracy Maitland will raise as much as $33,400 each from about 30 donors.

He also is taping an appearance on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman.”

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