Joanne Florino Featured in Forbes Article on Bezos Gift to Smithsonian

Philanthropy Roundtable’s Adam Meyerson Distinguished Fellow Joanne Florino recently was featured in a Forbes article entitled “Why Bezos Won’t Get Sacklered by the Smithsonian.” In this piece, author Suzanne Rowan Kelleher writes about billionaire Jeff Bezos’s $200 million gift to the Smithsonian – and the agreement between the two parties that a new education center will be named after Bezos. While some institutions ask philanthropists to sign a morals clause that could permit removal of the donor’s name from a property if a future scandal were to arise, there is no such agreement in this case. Florino says she doesn’t find the absence of this clause unusual.  

Below are excerpts from “Why Bezos Won’t Get Sacklered by the Smithsonian”: 

“‘I’m not actually surprised by that,’ says Joanne Florino, the Adam Meyerson fellow at Philanthropy Roundtable. ‘The Smithsonian has, I think, taken an interesting perspective on a lot of these things,’ she said, noting that the National Museum of Asian Art still has a gallery bearing the Sackler name. ‘I’m not drawing any parallels between Jeff Bezos and the Sacklers. I know people get angry with Mr. Bezos, primarily because he’s wealthy. But there’s really nothing to indicate that there would be a need for moral qualms.’ 

It would also be wrong to assume that the founder of Amazon and Blue Origin refused to have a morals clause, says Florino. ‘We don’t know if that clause was even brought up. It’s equally likely that the Smithsonian never even brought up that issue.’ 

Florino’s instincts are spot on. ‘We do not have a morals clause in any gift agreements or contracts,’ confirms Linda St. Thomas, spokesperson for the Smithsonian. ‘If a situation arises, we have a review process to evaluate the situation. But there is no such clause in our agreements with any donor.’ 

In granting Bezos a half-century of naming rights, it appears that the Smithsonian did bend a policy for the billionaire. In 2011, the Smithsonian enacted the 20-year policy to ‘get away from perpetuity’ in gift agreements, a spokeswoman told MarketWatch. 

‘He didn’t ask for perpetuity,’ says Florino. ‘He asked for a specific timeframe, apparently. I don’t see anything unusual about that.’” 

Please continue reading “Why Bezos Won’t Get Sacklered by the Smithsonian” at Forbes.  

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