A foundation set up to help rural economic development has given about $300,000 over two years to UNC-TV, the public television network, which used the money to air positive stories about the foundation’s work.
The grants are from the Golden LEAF Foundation, which controls hundreds of millions of dollars from the states’ 1998 legal settlement with tobacco companies. The TV station has used the grants to produce sunny stories, with more than half of the episodes in its first 12 shows featuring projects that also received Golden LEAF money.
This month, the station received a second Golden LEAF grant of $112,000 to continue the series, with new shows to start in August.
When legislators started the foundation, they said they intended to use the money for economic-development projects in communities hurt by tobacco’s decline.
Lately, some of the foundation’s grants have only a remote connection to that original goal. In addition to the UNC-TV programs, grant money has gone to college scholarships, housing and retail development plans and to help prepare the state’s application for a federal education grant. One Golden LEAF project, which helps provide each student at a Wilson County high school with a laptop, was the subject of a “North Carolina Rising” episode.
It’s about time somebody in the traditional media shed some light on this politically-tainted organization. Perhaps this article will help open the eyes of more lawmakers to this “multi-million dollar slush fund.”
I’ve written rather extensively about why Golden LEAF should be dissolved. See here for more explanation of Golden LEAF as a “political tool,” and read here about why Golden LEAF is a redundant, unnecessary organization.
The state routinely raids millions of dollars annually from the Tobacco Trust Fund and the Health and Wellness Trust Fund in order to balance the state’s general operations, but somehow Golden LEAF continues untouched. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the money trail, would it?
As I pointed out in this Civitas Review magazine article (pg 13-14):
All told, the current 15 board members have contributed nearly half a million to political campaigns and committees – roughly 90 percent of said donations going to Democrats. ……
• Lisbeth Evans donated $20,000 to the state Democratic Party and the legal maximum check for $4,000 to Easley’s campaign in 2000. Easley appointed Evans to the board in 2001.
• H. Kel Landis donated $3,000 to Easley in the 2000 campaign cycle. Easley appointed Landis to the board in 2000.
• John D. Merritt gave the legal maximum donation of $4,000 to Easley’s campaign in both 1999 and 2000. Easley appointed Merritt to the board in 2001 (Merritt gave another $4,000 to Easley in 2004).
• David T. Stephenson III gave $20,000 to the state Democratic Party in 2003. Basnight, who yields considerable influence over how state party funds are allocated, appointed Stephenson to the board in 2004.
• Wade Barber donated the legal maximum $4,000 to Hackney in 2007. Barber was appointed to the board by Hackney in 2008.
• Edgar Roach donated $3,000 to Easley’s campaign during 2004. By the end of that year Roach was sitting on the board – appointed by Easley.