Nelson’s foundation funds union-led push, while David’s give dough to biz-ed effort.
This interesting story comes to us from Crain’s reporter Chris Bragg:
The Rockefellers, one of the world’s most generous philanthropic families, apparently find themselves on both sides of New York City’s rancorous debate over a bill mandating that businesses offer employees paid sick days.
Over the past several years, the Rockefeller Family Fund, a nonprofit established in 1967 by New York Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, has given at least $250,000 toward the union-led push to require companies to offer paid time off. The nonprofit’s $7 million 2010 operating budget came from outside donations and interest accrued from an endowment funded by the family fortune, initially earned by Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller more than a century ago.
Money for mayoral forums
Then, in December, the far larger Rockefeller Foundation announced a $100,000 grant to a nonprofit arm of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. The money will be used to hold 2013 mayoral forums highlighting business issues—and for many small businesses, especially restaurants and retailers, there is no concern more pressing than legislation that would require them to pay for time off if an employee calls in sick.
“If this was a way to say the Rockefeller family was split on the issue, it was a smart way to do it,” said one left-leaning source, noting that the Rockefeller Foundation’s grant was smaller than the Family Fund’s, despite its annual spending being much greater. The net assets of the Rockefeller Foundation, established in 1913 by John D. Rockefeller, are $3.5 billion. In 2011, it gave away $132 million, according to its most recent tax return. The Rockefeller Family Fund, meanwhile, has $92.7 million in net assets. It gave out $14.8 million in 2010, tax records show.
A spokesman for the Rockefeller Foundation stressed that the grant was not intended to push against paid sick leave. The president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Carlo Scissura, said the paid sick leave push is one of “a dozen” business issues that will be discussed at the mayoral forums. Still, small businesses consider opposition to paid sick leave a top legislative issue.
A left turn
The split may be explained in part by family dynamics. The fourth generation of Rockefellers, the children of the famous five “Rockefeller brothers” that included Nelson, took a liberal turn from their predecessors, which has helped shape the left-leaning direction of the Rockefeller Family Fund. The group also promotes environmental and women’s issues. Every member of the board is either a Rockefeller or the spouse of one. An official at the nonprofit declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the multinational Rockefeller Foundation at times has not had a family member on its board in recent years, though its chairman is David Rockefeller Jr., the current patriarch of the family.
The irony of the potentially dueling grants has not escaped some interested observers.
“They should just pick one side and stick with it,” said Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lenny Caro, an opponent of the paid sick leave bill.