WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 23-29, 2010)

SCANDAL

Company Owned By Cancer Research Donor Lobbied Against Designation of Formaldehyde as Carcinogen.” By Marian Wang. ProPublica. August 23, 2010. A prominent philanthropist, cancer survivor, and American businessman, David Koch, has given millions [1] to the cause of cancer research, while his company—Koch Industries—has lobbied against formal recognition of formaldehyde as a carcinogen, The New Yorker reported in a piece published today. Koch sits on the advisory board of the National Cancer Institute—a position he was appointed to in 2004 [1] by President Bush, reported The New Yorker. In 2005, Koch Industries bought Georgia-Pacific, one of the world’s largest plywood manufacturers and a major formaldehyde producer. The company has donated to both Vitter and Inhofe [2]. In a letter to federal health authorities sent last December, the company’s vice-president of environmental affairs wrote that “the company ‘strongly disagrees’ with the N.I.H. panel’s conclusion that formaldehyde should be treated as a known human carcinogen,” reported The New Yorker. The National Cancer Institute’s director, Harold Varmus, told The New Yorker that at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center—where he used to work and where Koch donated $40 million dollars and serves on the board—it wasn’t uncommon for donors to have large business interests, but “the one thing we wouldn’t tolerate in our board members is tobacco.” Varmus was “surprised,” however, when The New Yorker told him about Koch Industries’ stance on formaldehyde.
Related stories:
The Brothers Koch: Rich, Political And Playing To Win.” Fresh Air/National Public Radio. August 26, 2010.
A Reporter at Large: Covert Operations – The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.” The New Yorker. August 30, 2010.
The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party.” By Frank Rich. Op-ed. New York Times. August 28, 2010

Group Is Accused on Tax Exemption.” By Eric Lichtblau. New York Times. August 27, 2010. Democrats are charging that commercials financed by an increasingly prominent conservative foundation with ties to the Tea Party violate the foundation’s tax-exempt status. In a complaint filed this week with the Internal Revenue Service, lawyers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee charged that the group, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, has been running advertisements in Kansas, Missouri and Michigan that are inherently “political in nature,” contravening a ban under federal tax law. A copy of the complaint was provided to The New York Times. The foundation, which has just begun a $1.4 million ad campaign criticizing the economic policies in Washington as “wasteful spending,” has become a vocal critic of Democratic policies and drew a rebuke this month from President Obama. Nonprofit groups like the foundation, which falls under section 501(c)3 of the tax code, are forbidden from participating in “any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate.” They may, however, seek to educate voters or conduct broader get-out-the-vote drives “if conducted in a nonpartisan manner,” the I.R.S. says. The group’s tax-exempt status is crucial because it allows donors to take an income-tax deduction. Americans for Prosperity, which called the complaint without merit, said it had raised money from 70,000 individual donors.

Co-founder of Islamic charity goes on trial.” By Jeff Barnard. Washington Post/ Associated Press. August 28, 2010. The gates are rusted and the American flags are gone from the house on the outskirts of this small tourist town that once served as U.S. headquarters for an Islamic charity that was declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. But despite six years of trying, federal investigators have not brought terrorism charges against the Iranian-born tree trimmer and naturalized American citizen who co-founded the American branch of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Inc., or his fellow foundation officer living in Saudi Arabia. The government will instead put Pete Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, on trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Eugene on charges of conspiracy, tax fraud and failing to report taking $150,000 out of the country. The indictment alleges that the money came from an unnamed Egyptian benefactor through a London bank to Ashland in 2000, where Seda and Soliman Hamd Al-Buthe, arranged to take it out of the country, filing a phony tax return to show the money going toward the purchase of a prayer house in Springfield, Mo. Court documents show the government will argue that Seda and Al-Buthe intended the money to go to Muslim separatists in the Russian republic of Chechnya who have fought two wars with government forces since 1994, but will not be offering any evidence the money actually went to terrorists. The strength of any government terrorism case against Seda has been questioned.

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