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TOP STORY: CHARITY AND POLITICS: Dole Foundation does good work with money some see as tainted

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-“The needs are great; I don’t care where the money comes from,” says Paul Hearne, president of the Dole Foundation for Employment of People With Disabilities. The needs are great: There are 49 million people in the United States with a disability, at least two-thirds of whom are unemployed. […]

c. 1996 Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS)-“The needs are great; I don’t care where the money comes from,” says Paul Hearne, president of the Dole Foundation for Employment of People With Disabilities.

The needs are great: There are 49 million people in the United States with a disability, at least two-thirds of whom are unemployed.

But while the needs may be great, Hearne is defensive because things get murky on the money side. The foundation was created by Sen. Robert Dole, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. And this is the question critics ask: Do corporations and business leaders, the major financial backers of the foundation, support what the senator can do to find jobs for the disabled, or what he can do for them on Capitol Hill or in the White House?

“It does make a difference where the money comes from,” says Ann McBride, president of Common Cause. “It comes from the same people who are huge campaign contributors. It is another way to buy access and influence with Mr. Dole. We think members of Congress should not have these charities.”

But while Dole’s sponsorship of the foundation may raise cautionary flags about buying influence, what remains unchallenged is this: The foundation does good work.

Leaders in the philanthropy world say the Dole Foundation fills a vacuum. While many foundations give grants to find cures for disabling diseases, only a few support finding jobs for people living with disabilities.

And no one can say the charity isn’t close to the senator’s heart. His World War II wounds left him with a nearly paralyzed right arm.

He and Hearne became friends in 1988 when both worked to pass the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment and access to public places.

Hearne, whose own congenital bone disease keeps him in a wheelchair, became president of the foundation in 1989. He gets just a little tired of answering the money questions, which are the subject of virtually every news story about the foundation.

“They used to give because of who he is, ” Hearne insists, “Now they give because of what we do.” Though he readily admitted, “If I wanted to start something called the Hearne Foundation, I’d still be out there begging.”

Dole is not alone among members of Congress who have founded charities. At least a dozen others have done the same thing, including Rep. Richard K. Armey, R-Texas, Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wis.

Since Dole set up his foundation in 1984, it has raised $11 million and given out $7 million in grants. Most of the grants are in the $25,000 to $50,000 range, with about three a year of $100,000.

The foundation gets good marks from charity watchdog groups such as the American Institute of Philanthropy. The Dole Foundation has a modest office in downtown Washington, a staff of only six, and spends less than 14 percent of its money on administration and fund raising, according to the Institute.

The unavoidably tricky part is that the money, however prudently spent, comes in large part from companies that benefit from Dole’s favor and have not been conspicuously active in disability issues-the biggest players in the tobacco industry, for example.

John Kemp is a member of the Dole board of trustees and a quadruple amputee who was director of United Cerebral Palsy and now runs Very Special Arts. He argues, “Phillip Morris owns Miller Brewing and Kraft Foods. Where do we draw the line? Do we refuse to take mayonnaise money?”

But it’s not mayonnaise money people are talking about. Dole Foundation donors also include three of Dole’s top 10 career patrons: the Ernest and Julio Gallo Winery, Koch Industries and Archer Daniels Midland Corp.

More than half of the foundation’s listed contributors have given to the senator’s political campaigns. Unlike donations to a political campaign, gifts to the foundation need not be disclosed. Hearne reports two recent secret $1 million pledges to the foundation endowment fund.

“Money for a rainy day,” he calls it, and hopes to have $10 million before long. Interestingly, H. Ross Perot pledged $500,000 to the fund in 1992, a year when Dole did not chime in with other Republicans who were criticizing Perot’s run for president. Dole is chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees; he attends yearly meetings in person and several other meetings through the year by phone.

One of those who finds some of the financial transactions crass is Carl Rush, the first president of the Dole Foundation in 1984. He is an experienced executive in the nonprofit field who came to the Dole Foundation from the Levi Strauss Foundation.

“It was not unusual for a CEO to say, `I’m going to give $100,000, but I’d like to give it to (Dole) personally and have a word or two with him about something else,”’ Rush said.

“The bane of my existence,” Rush said, was the representative for Archer Daniels Midland, who regularly demanded access to Dole. “That’s not an association that I’m terribly proud of.”

Rush stayed in the job for only two years. “I think that many of the senator’s campaign staff would relate to my experience. He’s not an easy man to work for. There are a couple of things, about which I’d rather not go into detail publicly.”

Rush said, however, that he has “immense respect” for Dole. “Let me hasten to add, these disagreements were strictly in management terms, there was never any hint of impropriety.”

The Dole Foundation is at the cutting edge of an expanding movement. The Americans With Disability Act made it easier for disabled people to get out into the workplace and gave businesses a big shove to hire them. And there are more disabled people every year, as people live longer and as more survive disabling injuries, such as head traumas, that would have been fatal 20 years ago.

Jeanne Argoff, 50, is the Dole Foundation associate director who reviews grants and works with other foundations, urging them to include the disabled in all their granting.

The Dole Foundation money is often spent in imaginative ways.

Psychologist Larry Riccio, for example, runs the Arts Jam Gallery Training Center in Takoma Park, Md., supported in part by a $30,000 Dole grant. Riccio uses the money to train disabled young people for jobs in the arts-how to run a museum store, how to work in a gallery, how to create and sell your own art. Riccio describes the grant application process as rigorous; “This is not a rinky-dink foundation; you go through hell to get the money.”

“You go through a lot of hoops,” said Ann Temkin of the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, which connects people with spinal injuries to potential employers. “But it’s an intelligent process.”

“Everybody’s favorite project,” says Argoff, is Heritage Farm in upstate New York, a family farm that trains people with severe developmental disabilities for farm jobs.

Another challenging Dole project was a program at the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley to find jobs for the disabled homeless.


The Dole Foundation funded what may be the first program to find employment for people with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. An Alabama group, the Epilepsy Chapter of Mobile and Gulf Coast, used its Dole grant to find and try to employ 250 clients in the rural counties of southern Alabama. It wasn’t easy. “There are more pine trees in some counties than there are people,” said David Toenes, chapter director. They found 225 and placed 60 percent in jobs.

The Dole grant opened doors for Toenes. He approached the “very political” board member of another foundation, which had never funded an epilepsy project, and mentioned he had just finished a two-year grant from the Dole foundation, “As in Bob Dole. As in Sen. Robert Dole. As in the majority leader of the United States Senate.”

“Send me a proposal outline,” replied the foundation board member, who later approved the grant.

Opening up new job fields is the specialty of program officer Randy Davis, 38, an Arkansan with a Harvard degree in ethics and public policy. Harvard Divinity School, which had had few if any disabled students, had to put in a chairlift for Davis, who uses a wheelchair.

Davis oversees one grant he considers a model-funding The National Center for Disability Services on Long Island to supply trained workers for biotechnology and medical labs in the area. The Dole grant enabled the center to set up a training lab and place 90 graduates in three years. Davis favors a new model for disabled people in which “we’re not asking for charity, we’re identifying the employer’s need.”


Dole himself is of course a model of a disabled person who never asked for pity, and certainly has pursued challenging work. Before this presidential campaign he had been reticent about talking about his disability or his foundation, though it could soften his image.

Dole Foundation board member John Kemp says, “Paul and I see a side of Dole that apparently others don’t see. We see a charming, witty, sensitive, caring guy.”

Though Dole has not advertised the foundation’s achievements, his wife is beginning to. In her campaign appearances Elizabeth Hanford Dole regularly brings up the Dole Foundation as evidence of her husband’s gentle, generous side.

The foundation is now part of a political campaign in a way that Dole and Hearne didn’t anticipate. “The truest thing you can say about Bob Dole and this foundation,” Hearne says, “is that no good deed goes unpunished.”


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