We have some new analysis on how Russian oligarchs funnel money to U.S. charities. As part of our work with the Anti-Corruption Data Collective, we found that a set wealthy Russians, several of whom are suspected of various forms of kleptocracy or foreign political interference, have donated hundreds of millions to American charities, with some even serving on those charities’ boards.

“Can anyone explain,” mused the always engaging Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price earlier this month, “why a billionaire who takes advantage of the system to exploit other people is called an 'oligarch' in Russia and a 'job creator' in America?”

A valid question to pose, given how our own economic arrangements so often encourage the same oligarchic behaviors we regularly denounce!

This week Chuck is down at the huge SXSW gathering in Austin, Texas, sharing new analysis that explores our domestic oligarchic connections. 
Working with the Anti-Corruption Data Collective, we’ve just published new research on how Russian oligarchs are funneling funds to U.S. charities. These oligarchs, including several kleptocrats suspected of interfering in the politics of other nations, have donated hundreds of millions. Some even serve on U.S. charity boards.

Investigations like this highlight the urgent need for changing how our charitable institutions oversee their donations — and how our government oversees our charitable institutions. For more info on how we could accomplish all this, check out our Charitable Giving Reform Initiative.

Chuck Collins and Rebekah Entralgo,
for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
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Stopping Traffic to ‘Fund Excluded Workers’
In New York, the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition is taking to city streets, demanding $3.8 billion in state funding for workers excluded from relief and safety net programs.

“We’re here because we’ve worked without benefits. We lifted this city up,” notes activist Ana Ramirez. “We paid our taxes, and it’s not right that we have to fight for what belongs to us.”

The programs activists like Ramirez want funded would compensate for the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 — and pre-existing, systemic inequities — on workers denied state and federal pandemic benefits due to their immigration status or work arrangements. After a powerful hunger strike in 2021, the coalition secured $2.1 billion for an Excluded Workers fund, a sum entirely disbursed to 130,000 New Yorkers in two months.

The FEW Coalition now hopes to serve more people by refilling the fund and winning longer-term protections — like unemployment insurance — for excluded workers. Inequality.org’s Bella DeVaan has more on their activism and impending 150-mile march to New York’s state capital.
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A Profiteer Off the Cold Is Now Feeling Really Hot
Last winter, a freak winter storm left over 240 Texans dead after the state’s power grid collapsed. Millions of other Texans froze “in the dark,” and natural gas prices soared. So did political contributions to Texas governor Greg Abbott from Kelcy Warren, the chair of the Dallas-based pipeline company that cleared $2.4 billion in extra earnings tied to the storm. The billionaire Warren had been giving Abbott $250,000 checks before the storm. After the big freeze, he cut Abbott a $1 million check. Abbott’s challenger in the state’s upcoming gubernatorial election, Beto O’Rourke, is charging that energy execs have “bought off” the governor and escaped responsibility for not having adequately weatherized their industry. Warren’s response? He’s just filed a lawsuit that accuses O’Rourke of making “malicious and baseless defamatory statements” about him. O’Rourke’s retort: “When we connect the dots and follow the money, we see that Greg Abbott has put profits over people.”
Don’t Wait for Billionaire Charity to Fix America
Experts on the care economy regularly stress that equitable paid-leave policies need to meet a triple-A standard. They need to be accessible and cover all workers for all kinds of leave. They need to be affordable and progressively guarantee wage replacement and job security for those on leave. And they need to be adequate and last long enough to allow time for bonding and healing. Meeting this triple-A standard has become even more important as the nation recovers from Covid and its outsized impact on low-wage workers without access to paid leave. Inequality.org managing editor Rebekah Entralgo has more on how Washington, D.C.’s new and improved paid-leave policy meets the triple-A standard.
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A Minimum Income Tax or a Maximum Income?
Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate leader, doesn’t have a problem with billionaires. He’s spent his entire political career helping billionaires make more billions. But Mitch McConnell does have a problem with one particular fabulously rich figure. That problem just happens to be the U.S. Senate’s richest senator, Rick Scott of Florida. This deep pocket is now trying to steer the GOP into high-profile public support for a tax increase — on America’s poorest! Why is Scott’s push irritating McConnell? Inequality.org’s Sam Pizzigati has more.
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What's on Inequality.org 

Chuck Collins, Cracking Down on Russian Oligarchs Means Cracking Down on U.S. Tax Havens. While other EU countries have been increasing transparency and cracking down on kleptocratic capital, the U.S. is a laggard.

Brian Wakamo, Scott Klinger, and Sarah Anderson, Why the Just-Passed Postal Service Reform Act is Such a Big Deal. The legislation gets rid of a manufactured financial burden that has threatened the ability of USPS to provide good jobs and universal service.

Connor Sanchez, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, and Esha Kamra, ‘Reckoning’ with the Economic Marginalization of Native Americans. Efforts to narrow the racial wealth divide must address the disparities that are at the heart of our nation's founding and still run through its veins in the 21st century.

Helen Flannery, Russian Oligarchs Funnel Money to U.S. Charities. But it is not just Russian oligarchs that have been increasingly abusing charity for financial or political gain; U.S. oligarchs do it too.

Elsewhere on the Web

Katharina Buchholz, How Russia’s Ultra-Wealthy Eclipse Their Country’s Economy Billionaires, Statistica, About 85 percent of Russian billionaire wealth comes the “crony sector,” where business and political power players work together to share profits and favors.

Lynn Parramore, Top Economist: America’s Racist Economy Getting Worse, Not Better, Institute for New Economic Thinking. The wealthy in the United States, an important new book details, “followed the British colonial playbook of encouraging racism to divide working people.”

Steve Wamhoff, State-by-State Estimates of Sen. Rick Scott’s ‘Skin in the Game’ Proposal, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. A new proposal from the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee would raise taxes on the nation’s poorest fifth by 8.6 percent of their total income.

Megan O’Matz, Billionaire-Backed Group Enlists Trump-Supporting Citizens to Hunt for Voter Fraud Using Discredited Techniques, Pro Publica. The deep pocket bankrolling “voter fraud” pseudoscience, billionaire Richard Uihlein, turns out to be an heir of a Schlitz brewing founder.

Michael Mechanic, Congress Is Set to Make the Rich Richer — Again, Mother Jones. Pending bipartisan legislation will expand on the accomplishments of past “retirement reform” bills — namely, enriching wealthy individuals and Wall Street money managers at taxpayer expense.

Amanda Hess, Hollywood Bets Big on the Bad Entrepreneur, New York Times. “Be crazier,” the financiers advise, “as long as the company valuation rises.”

Ben Strauss, The ‘stunning’ shift in how the media covers MLB labor strife, Washington Post. Reporters have wised up to how much owners are extracting from baseball.

Brian Wakamo, Can Global Sports Boycotts Help End the War in Ukraine?, Foreign Policy in Focus. The power of sports to legitimize a regime also means they have the power to delegitimize one, too.

Walker Bragman and Alex Kotch, How Dark Money Shaped the School Safety Debate, Daily Poster. For nearly two years, the network of oil billionaire Charles Koch has been meddling in the education debate, first pushing to reopen schools as Covid spread and then fighting in-school safety measures.
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