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Giannoulias's Embellishments: Rhetoric vs. Reality

3:20 PM, Jun 11, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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To hear Alexi Giannoulias describe his quite modest, now-defunct AG Foundation – and his involvement with its work – one could be forgiven for thinking the organization was saving the world.

Giannoulias's Embellishments: Rhetoric vs. Reality

But in reality, it distributed very little money in the very short while it lasted, and seems mainly to have served to bolster Giannoulias’s profile, first in his campaign for Illinois State Treasurer and more recently in his effort to retain the Barack Obama/Roland Burris Senate seat for the Democratic party.

Here’s a sampling:

-- “I am the Chairman and Founder of the AG Foundation, a not-for-profit charity which donates funds to children’s illnesses, efforts to curb world poverty and disaster relief organizations.” (Independent Voters of Illinois Questionnaire, 1/12/2006.)

What “efforts to curb world poverty”? According to the AG Foundation’s federal tax returns, it didn’t contribute to any world poverty organizations.

-- “As the head of his own AG Foundation, Alexi has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Chicago-area charities and environmental organizations, including significant help for victims of Hurricane Katrina.” (alexiforillinois.com 1/11/2006 version.)

"Environmental organizations”? Which ones? According to the AG Foundation’s tax returns, it didn’t contribute so much as $1 to any environmental organizations.

How about “significant help” for victims of Hurricane Katrina? It depends on your definition of "significant." AG did in fact contribute $1,500 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and $1,000 to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

As for “tens of thousands of dollars”--that would seem to mean at least $20,000.  However, the AG foundation disbursed only $18,800 over the eleven or so months it was in existence.

-- “WCT: What's the AG Foundation? AG: It's just a non-profit corporation that I founded to help with everything from disaster recovery efforts to children's illnesses. Frankly, there hasn't been much fundraising; it's mostly been my money.” (Windy City Times interview, 3/15/2006.)

Giannoulias told the Windy City Times that most of the funding for the AG Foundation came from himself. Only if "most" means "less than half." According to the AG Foundation’s tax returns, Giannoulias contributed $9,000 to the foundation, with his mother and other undisclosed donors contributing the rest of the organizations’ funds.  The AG Foundation ultimately dispensed $18,800, meaning Alexi Giannoulias’ contributions accounted for only 48% of its funds.

As noted previously, Giannoulias, according to the foundation’s tax return, worked with this organization for a total of 0.15 hours per week, which is nine minutes on average per week and 39 minutes per month.

Nevertheless, up until June 3, 2010, when THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported on Giannoulias’s embellishments, his official website as state treasurer of Illinois stated, “He founded and chairs the AG Foundation, a not-for-profit charity that donates money to treat child-related illnesses, curb poverty and assist disaster relief organizations.”

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