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Using tainted money

Every year in my theatre management class, we have a discussion on whether they would refuse a donation for their arts organization based on the identity or reputation of the donor.

Keep in mind that this is merely a donation — no strings attached to the donation other than listing the benefactor as a donor.

It always generates a good discussion, with questions such as:

  • What if you personally disagree with some of the donor’s politics? (ie, would you accept money from George Soros? The Koch Brothers?)
  • What if you think a company’s products are harmful? Would you accept money from them? (Philip Morris, maker of cigarettes, has been one of the best supporters of cutting-edge arts organizations.)
  • What if a company’s image conflicted with that of your organization? (Usually someone brings up a pretty unlikely notion like Hustler Magazine wanting to donate to a Children’s Theatre Company.)

There’s almost always a split in the class with some students having a clear line that they won’t cross in accepting donations (although that might change if they were actually facing real-life budgetary challenges, rather than classroom theorizing), and other students who are happy to take anyone’s money and put it to better use (as long as there are no strings tied to it).

All this made me interested in a (continuing) debate regarding the church in Mexico and donations from drug traffickers.

Catholic Church under scrutiny for accepting blood money

HIDALGO, Mexico – The drug war in Mexico has forced the Catholic Church to confront allegations it accepts donations from drug lords.

In the tiny community of Tezontle in Hidalgo, Mexico there is a new building with an enormous silver cross.

A plaque on the wall identified the benefactor as Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano. He is a top leader of the Zetas which is one of Mexico’s most feared cartels.

He’s a native son who is a wanted man on both sides of the border, but people in the town say they know nothing of the generous donor.

Critics say the problem extends to the Catholic church hierarchy when it comes to drug money donations.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese in Mexico said the church warns parishes not to accept dirty money even if it’s to pay for good deeds.

Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano is attempting to buy salvation. Or perhaps he’s just trying to whitewash his image. Or maybe he really believes in the church and wants to support it now that he has a shitload of money.

The church is not offering salvation in exchange for the money — merely a plaque of acknowledgement.

Is it wrong?

(Personally, I would find it better if the Catholic Church spent less on fancy buildings and more in other areas, but that’s another discussion.)

I can understand the church hierarchy wanting to squelch the practice. Whether it is morally wrong or not, they see the problem of the appearance of impropriety (ie, they’re afraid the public might assume they’re somehow in cahoots with the drug lords, letting them hide cocaine in the bell tower, etc.).

But using tainted money for good purposes — even money that has been obtained through murder — Is that morally wrong?

How is the Catholic Church’s use of tainted drug money different from the use of seized tainted drug money by law enforcement? (Other than the fact that law enforcement took it and the Church had it given to them freely.)

And here’s another thing to ponder. What about all the money that is given to other countries by the U.S. to prosecute the drug war? Now that money actually does have strings attached, requiring the recipient to be involved in fueling bloody conflict. Where’s the morality in accepting that kind of blood money?

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21 comments to Using tainted money

  • kaptinemo

    Like as not, with some 70-90% of all US currency contaminated with cocaine residue, the issue can never be moot. It’s ALL ‘dirty money’ now.

    And with the US Gub’mint itself an accomplice to the drug trade as far back as WW2 (I suspect much, much earlier) with the Office of Naval Intelligence in bed with Mafioso capo ‘Lucky’ Luciano to gain information about Nazi-occupied Sicily’s harbor security (with continuing ‘cooperation’ long after that war ended), that connection in and of itself makes the question irrelevant.

    This schizoidal insistence that there’s any kind of distance between the hunters and the hunted, in the face of all the available evidence, makes for very bad theater, indeed. Our institutions were corrupted by contact with the very forces they claimed to oppose, long ago, to the point their professations of legitimacy in their role in ‘fighting the War on (Some) Drugs’ deserves raucous laughter and hurled rotten fruit than any modicum of respect.

    An old Scottish saying goes that “Once you touch the Devil, you can never let go.” Uncle made that fatal mistake long ago. And we all pay the price, daily, in wasted lives and wasted treasure.

  • ezrydn

    On the topic of “Principles,” all of us here have a core set of basic values we’ve come to understand. And those core values, over time (and ONLY over time) form our “principles” that, on a personal level, we refuse to cross, no matter the ancillary information that comes with the event.

    If you have none, you’re either too young to have formed them or your old enough and strange enough that you simply don’t have any.

    Is there a form of donation I wouldn’t accept, even if dire need existed? Damned straight! “Principles” are without price!

  • vickyvampire

    That’s right Kaptinemo most money is tainted with cocaine, It’s all DIRTY DIRTY DIRTY MONEY HA HA,SOUNDS LIKE GAGA SONG.
    I guess lots of things can qualify has tainted,but really is bigoted remember during Pres Bush or SR. or Jr. some Gay group contributed money to one of their campaigns and Christian right group went nuts and demanded they give it back like it was TAINTED.

    A little off topic here is link to what more damage NSAIDS are doing to us has used for pain relief. Dangers of Acetaminophen causing blood cancers now. Yeah does Marijuana do that of course NOT.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110509/hl_nm/us_acetaminophen_cancer

    • Leonard Junior

      http://youtu.be/fAiEvPYUNZ4

      it’s a soom t song, as an anti-globalization song. if you’re interested in good dub stylee, disrupt/soom t is a great combination.

      it’s all dirty money even made legitimately, technically. it’s a representation of someone else’s misfortune– these days those of 3rd world laborers, mostly, whose countries can’t afford our trade deals, who usually end up paying, as in indonesia.

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    How about if the donation came from NAMBLA? That should make the question a no-brainer. Certainly the Catholic Church would accept such a donation. Probably half of NAMBLA’s membership are Catholic priests. The other half undercover LEOs.

    (caution, if you don’t know about this organization you don’t want to know about it. Hands off that Google if you know what’s good for you)

  • OK, let’s challenge the “bright line” for discussion purposes.

    Imagine the most offensive organization you can imagine and they’re going to give you a donation (with no strings attached). What happens if you don’t accept their money? What will they spend it on instead?

    Isn’t it possible to look at it that you have taken their money, preventing them from doing something horrendous with it, and you’ll be using it to do something good?

    For example, NAMBLA gives to a theatre company. The theatre company accepts the money and uses it to produce a play about the horrors of child abuse. Was this a good decision on the part of the theatre company? (It was probably a lousy decision on the part of NAMBLA.)

  • Dante

    re: Using tainted money.

    Our government has long had a hand in “tainted” activities. For instance:

    Osama Bin Laden was trained and funded by the CIA. Three trillion dollars and 6,000 dead soldiers later, they had him killed.

    The vicious Mexican drug gang “Zetas” was originally a group of US-trained and funded commandos. They are still running and gunning (so far).

    Barry Seal flew cocaine into America for the DEA. Tons of it.

    The Shah of Iran was installed as a US puppet – the whole Islamic Revolution of 1979 was his fault.

    The leaders of Viet Nam were installed in 1963 by a US-backed coup. How did that whole Viet Nsm thing turn out?

    And on and on and on. The only difference between “criminals” and “statesmen” is timing.

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    Bah, once currency is tainted with cocaine it never gets washed off. We never hear about money tainted with meth, heroin, or cannabis. The last excepting fresh from being tainted. 20% of Chinese money is tainted with cocaine.

    But interestingly enough for some time I’ve thought and money stolen by LE should get divvied up among all existing US charities, that the government should in no way benefit from the action. So will the charity accept money that was stolen by the police from people involved in the black market retail distribution chain if they wouldn’t accept it directly from the drugs law violators?

    Oh just forget all this donation nonsense, what I want to know is how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    (sorry, my Catholic brainwashing still manifests in my mind from time to time. I really need to find a meeting of Catholics Anonymous.)

  • ezrydn

    If I don’t accept the money? Nothing happens. Said donor will go ahead and spend their money, with or without me, as it would have been had I not been involved.

    Once you come to a preset “principle” line, you simply don’t cross it. Plus, you don’t start trying to figure out a way around it, thereby, making it a non-entity.

    It’s not up to us to try and control how the money of others is used. Only if we do or don’t use it ourselves.

  • There are always strings attached.

  • DdC

    The blood money being spent comes from tax payers going into the DEAth budget. Then laundered through Walters Philanthropy Roundtable or written off in tax shelters financing prohibie propaganda groups. I always tell conservatives if they don’t want to give spare change to the homeless, don’t. But once you do its their money to spend where they want. The food bank refusing a buyers club donation only serve their own ego’s. At the cost to the poor. The money is hemp fiber and ink and has no blood on it, especially if it can feed the poor or whatever. Though if one really wants to donate they could anonymously. At the end of the day the hippies in Santa Cruz got food to the families while the pompous religionists prayed as the kids went hungry. No blood money, just ego. Pitifools!

    MORE Ron Crickenberger Ads and LESS Government Doublespeak!

    Redding Charity Turns Down Pot Dispensary’s Food – 11/08/09

    “The Lord impressed on me to tell him thanks, but no thanks,” he said, adding that he does not regret that decision. “I feel good about the decision. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
    ~ Chris Solberg, director of Loaves and Fishes

    Still, he noted, food and monetary donations are very much needed because of the poor economy.

    Granny Purps
    Black and co-owner Phil Hicks demonstrated that their recipe book also includes the secret ingredient to bringing in outsized donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank holiday food drive: a complimentary joint. For every four cans of food they donated to Second Harvest, patients received one pre-rolled marijuana joint, with a maximum of three per day. Reports show that Granny Purps took in 11,000 pounds of food and handed out 2,000 joints between November and Christmas Eve, when the promo ended.

    Drug War Bailing Out Banksters – 07/13/09

    “For years and years, information and evidence being collected by the counterintelligence operations of certain U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies has been prevented from being transferred to criminal and narcotics divisions, and from being shared with the Drug Enforcement Agency and others with prosecutorial power. Those with direct knowledge have been prevented from making this information available and public by various gag orders and invocation of the State Secrets Privilege. Why?”
    ~ Sibel Edmonds

    Follow-up on USA Today ads by Ron Crickenberger – 02/18/09

    Here’s the quick summary of the ad’s aftermath:

    * We generated a solid amount of media coverage — although not the “breakout” coverage we had hoped for. (I’ll explain the missing ingredient that kept us from getting more media attention.)

    * We triggered a weird — almost surreal — response from the Drug Czar’s office.

    * We galvanized the drug reform movement, and generated more positive comments from them than we have for ANY previous project.

    * We TRIPLED the number of daily visitors to our website.

    * We proved that we can react quickly to events, raise a substantial amount of money via the Internet, and have a genuine impact on public policy debates.

    * Most importantly, we achieved our main goal: We spit in the eye of America’s foremost Drug Warrior.

    Congress Recommends $145 Million For Drug Office – 12/01/03

    DEA SPENDS $123,000 TO FLY AGENCY CHIEF TO COLOMBIA
    Belleville News-Democrat (IL) Mon, 16 Feb 2009 WASHINGTON

    U.S. Drug Czar Admits to Failed Ad Campaign
    After Wasting Nearly $1 Billion in Taxpayer Money
    Drug Policy Alliance Press Release [3/14/02]

    “I have to say I think these spots are a waste of $3.5 million.”
    –Tucker Carlson, CNN’s Crossfire

  • tintguy

    There is no dirty money. $ is money is $. There are only dirty deeds that are done for and with money.
    If your child needs a life saving operation that will only be done for an amount of $ that you don’t have and some heinous criminal wants to do at least one good deed in his otherwise selfish life by paying the bill, does that mean if you accept that your childs saved life will forever be tainted? I think not. Gimme that $ so my child can live.

  • Servetus

    The Catholic Church has been accepting mafia money for as long as there’s been a mafia. Drug dealers’ donations in Mexico are nothing new in that regard.

    If religious organizations use donated funds to support charitable work, and not just for paying off child molestation lawsuits, then accepting the money might be considered a means of moral correction leading to soul-saving, or whatever. As organized religion goes, any rationalization for coveting tainted tithes is likely to work as long as the money’s origin is kept quiet.

    Problems emerge if questionable funds become traceable to a controversial source. Any organization today that takes money from the Koch brothers is likely to have much public explaining to do at some future point. In accepting Koch money, which nearly always has political strings attached, the organization’s destiny may very well ride on the future political fate of the two Koch brothers, which doesn’t look very promising at the moment.

    Established, non-political entities that can survive without Koch money, like opera and symphony groups, can get away with taking tainted Koch funds because no negative consequences are likely to ensue from their activities as political neutrals. If the entity uses the money to embellish a criminal or Koch political agenda, then it’s not really a donation, but a grant. With strings attached, the entity becomes an extension of the donor, with all the social and moral disadvantages that come with it.

  • denmark

    There aren’t many people who have figured out that giving money to the church will not buy their salvation. Maybe the building itself will give him a safe haven if he needs it.
    Instead of the gold cross though one of those gold plated AK-47’s would have looked grand.

    Have to agree with ezrydn on this one.

  • daniel

    If there is a God would he really send to heaven despite all one’s bad deeds because he gave money to a church? DOUBT it. I say take the money use it wisely. The problem is perception is reality. The prudes will perceive things differently and the church is going to have to stop taking money. If the narcos are really doing it to help the church they can do it anonamously.

  • darkcycle

    Tainted money saved the banks during the last banking crisis. Servetus correctly points out that the Church has been accepting money from the Mafia for decades. The donations are accepted and the donors are allowed anonymity in many cases.
    Would I accept tainted money? Depends. On whose money and what the purpose. Principals need to be flexible enough to deal with the muddy affairs of everyday life.
    However, sacrificing them completely is a requirement for many positions. There are some jobs you can only qualify for after having proved yourself utterly devoid of them. Like for instance…say…drug czar.

  • David Marsh

    Good question Pete! Isn’t it interesting how arrogant our culture has become and how easily we pass judgment on another human’s morality. Homer wrote, “Let no man be altogether without sense of righteousness, but take in silence the gifts of the gods, whatever they give him”. Prohibition is the instrument of judgment on our morality, are we any better when we judge others?

  • warren

    because the pigs and govt are do gooders and if you don`t do good we will kill you in the name of the law. [also we made all the rules in our favor because big business/big pharm says so.]

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