New NPR Sting Video Proves That Controversial Donors Are Allowed to Donate Anonymously

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 10 2011 4:25 PM

New NPR Sting Video Proves That Controversial Donors Are Allowed to Donate Anonymously

Project Veritas releases its second NPR video , although this one administers, at best, a flesh wound.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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The reason I say it doesn't wound deeply -- nothing that's discussed here is illegal. "Simon Templar" asks Betsy Liley, at NPR, if his group can give money without its name* showing up on NPR's paperwork. Indeed, it can.

LILEY: We also got an $8 million gift -- I don't know if you remember this, about two years ago, a number of institutions, higer ed institutions, all with women as presidents, got donations that ranged from $5 million to $12 million. They were never identified, where the donations were from. And it added up to about to about $80 million. And it all happened in about two weeks.

TEMPLAR: They move pretty fast.

LILEY: We couldn't even figure out who it was, nor were we supposed to, so we didn't attempt to.

TEMPLAR: It sounded like you were saying that NPR would be able to shield us from a government audit.

LILEY: I think that is the case, especially if you were anonymous, and I can inquire about that.

Basically, Templar is using fishy-sounding language to describe something that's not ideal, but legal. The problem comes in if you think NPR shouldn't accept donations from a group that admits it was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and whose representatives worry about Jewish control of the media.

But that leads to another problem. Project Veritas, which filmed this, has an appeal to donors on its website. It doesn't have a list of donors. This is an odd line of attack of NPR unless PV is willing to reveal the names of everyone and every group who gives it money. It doesn't have to! Neither, of course, does NPR.

UPDATE: Ah -- Lee Doren points out to me (on Twitter) that NPR had originally said it denied the phony Muslim group's donation every time it was offered, while the evidence here suggests that NPR never did. Add that to the damage.

*I've fixed this from "it" to "its name."

UPDATE II: NPR has released a new statement distancing itself from Liley's description of how the anonymous donation could be reported.

The statement made by Betsy Liley in the audio tapes released today regarding thepossibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to taxauthorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR’s giftpractices.  All donations – anonymous and named – are fullyreported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosureregulations.

Through unequivocal words and actions, NPR hasrenounced and condemned the secretly recorded statements of Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley. Mr. Schiller is no longer with NPR andMs. Liley has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation ofthe matter.

No stronger statement of disavowal and disapproval ispossible. NPR will not be deterred from its news mission and will ultimately bejudged by the millions and millions of listeners and readers who have come torely on us every day.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.