|Marky Mark, Priscilla Chan and daughter Max.|
Who could resist such cuteness? I could.
Gawker, a day later, provided the reality of what this meant.
First, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative isn't a charitable organization, it's an LLC. That means that it can spend those Facebook stocks, when cashed out, on whatever it damn well pleases.
I noted that, as well as the fact that Zuckerberg's announced desire to promote "connecting people and building strong communities" sure made it sound like he'd be giving all this Facebook stock to ...
Promote the use of Facebook.
Because, hey, Facebook connects us all, right? Into communities, right?
What's not patently self-serving in the announcement?
Well, much of it that isn't that is New Age drivel.
Advancing human potential is about pushing the boundaries on how great a human life can be.
Can you learn and experience 100 times more than we do today?
A Facebook release this afternoon stated as much. “The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will pursue its mission by funding non-profit organizations, making private investments and participating in policy debates, in each case with the goal of generating positive impact in areas of great need,” it said. “Any profits from investments in companies will be used to fund additional work to advance the mission.”
Which, from there, goes on to note about said education initiatives:
“Micro-schools”? Putting Facebook software in public schools? Software, software, more software. If you have a headache, take a software. Jimmy can’t read? Give him software. The conceit that code can solve all social ills and free the species from the chains of aging, illness, and flatulence is the height of Silicon Valley bullshit, and Zuckerberg’s massive giveaway will clearly be predicated on that conceit.
Yep. Like Chris Whittle and others, Zuckerberg wants to get our schoolkids hooked on the tech-neoliberal version of Marlboros ASAP.
Indeed, Pro Publica has now weighed in on exactly that issue
Mark Zuckerberg did not donate $45 billion to charity. You may have heard that, but that was wrong.
Here’s what happened instead: Zuckerberg created an investment vehicle.
In doing so, Zuckerberg and Chan did not set up a charitable foundation, which has nonprofit status. He created a limited liability company, one that has already reaped enormous benefits as public relations coup for himself. His PR return-on-investment dwarfs that of his Facebook stock. Zuckerberg was depicted in breathless, glowing terms for having, in essence, moved money from one pocket to the other.
Sounds about right.
But, wait, it gets "better."
What’s more, a charitable foundation is subject to rules and oversight. It has to allocate a certain percentage of its assets every year. The new Zuckerberg LLC won’t be subject to those rules and won’t have any transparency requirements.
And, only one person makes the decision on how to invest this.
But wait, Pro Publica goes further on this:
Any time a superwealthy plutocrat makes a charitable donation, the public ought to be reminded that this is how our tax system works. The superwealthy buy great public relations and adulation for donations that minimize their taxes.
And, Zuckerberg gets tax benefits from this:
So what are the tax implications? They are quite generous to Zuckerberg. I asked Victor Fleischer, a law professor and tax specialist at the University of San Diego School of Law, as well as a contributor to DealBook. He explained that if the LLC sold stock, Zuckerberg would pay a hefty capital gains tax, particularly if Facebook stock kept climbing.
If the LLC donated to a charity, he would get a deduction just like anyone else. That’s a nice little bonus. But the LLC probably won’t do that because it can do better. The savvier move, Professor Fleischer explained, would be to have the LLC donate the appreciated shares to charity, which would generate a deduction at fair market value of the stock without triggering any tax.
That's in part because, per that same lawyer, and contra one neolib pseudoskeptic, Zuckerberg's money can be used for lobbying purposes, too.
(a) No person may bring an action or assert a claim against a benefit corporation or its directors or officers under this chapter except in a benefit enforcement proceeding.
(b) A benefit enforcement proceeding may be commenced or maintained only as follows:
(1) Directly by the benefit corporation.
(2) Derivatively by any of the following:
(A) A shareholder.
(B) A director.
(C) A person or group of persons that owns beneficially or of record 5 percent or more of the equity interests in an entity of which the benefit corporation is a subsidiary.
(D) Other persons as have been specified in the articles or bylaws of the benefit corporation.
(c) A benefit corporation shall not be liable for monetary damages under this part for any failure of the benefit corporation to create a general or specific public benefit.
(D)efined as a material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole, as assessed against a 3rd-party standard, as defined, that satisfies certain requirements.
Of course, I love being a deliberate contrarian at times. And a capital-C philosophical Cynic.
But, Zuckerberg doesn't even make a public announcement about going to the bathroom unless there's some self-interest involved.
Part of the problem is that many Americans, including said neoliberal pseudoskeptic, don't understand what philanthropy actually is. Per this piece, remember:
If you are giving money to somebody with the expectation that they will carry out your instructions, further your agenda, owe you compliance and assistance, or complete a project you've assigned them — you're not a philanthropist. If your giving is designed to give you power or control over an aspect of public life in our country — you're not a philanthropist.
Update, April 12, 2016: Facebook's new Siri-on-Oxy-slow bot-apps are surely a public benefit, right?