Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged $10 billion this week to create a fund to fight climate change, the biggest act of philanthropy to date by the world’s richest man. The Bezos Earth Fund will start awarding grants this summer, he said, to scientists, activists, and organizations that are trying to combat “the biggest threat to our planet.” The climate pledge amounts to less than 8 percent of Bezos’ $130 billion estimated worth but ranks as the third-largest charitable gift ever. Bezos has faced intense pressure from employees to make Amazon greener; the company emits 44.4 million metric tons of carbon a year, more than most countries. “We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy,” Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said, “but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away.”
Bankruptcy for Boy Scouts
Facing a flood of sexual abuse lawsuits, the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy this week in a bid to limit the financial damage to the 110-year-old organization. Over the past decade, lawsuits and investigations have revealed how generations of boys were preyed on by abusive troop leaders. By the Scouts’ own reckoning, more than 12,000 children were abused by some 7,800 former leaders from 1946 through 2016. The Boy Scouts estimates that up to 5,000 victims will seek compensation; bankruptcy allows the group to temporarily freeze those cases and keep operating. The organization could be forced to sell some of its many property holdings, including campgrounds and hiking trails, to create a victims’ fund that could top $1 billion.
President Trump granted clemency to a string of notorious white-collar criminals this week, following recommendations from GOP donors, friends, and Fox News hosts. Among the 11 people granted pardons or sentence commutations were former Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was serving 14 years in prison for attempting to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, and Michael Milken, the so-called junk bond king of the 1980s. The president said he pardoned Blagojevich, a former Celebrity Apprentice contestant and self-described “Trumpocrat,” after seeing his wife, Patti, on Fox News pleading for Trump’s intervention. Blagojevich was also convicted of extorting campaign donations from the CEO of a children’s hospital.Clemency was granted to former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, a frequent Fox News contributor convicted in 2009 of tax fraud and lying to investigators, and Edward DeBartolo Jr., the San Francisco 49ers owner who transferred the team to his sister in 1997 after pleading guilty to bribing Louisiana’s governor in exchange for a gambling license. Another pardon went to Paul Pogue, a construction executive who pleaded guilty to dodging $473,000 in taxes. Last fall, Pogue’s son and daughter-in-law gave $200,000 to the Trump Victory Committee and posted a photo online of themselves posing with Donald Trump Jr. The Department of Justice traditionally vets and recommends pardons and commutations; there’s no indication that Trump followed that process. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, said Trump’s clemency blitz was intended “to reward his friends and condone corruption.”
Quid pro quo?
President Trump suggested last week that if New York wants to have its access to federal trusted-traveler programs reinstated, his former home state should drop lawsuits and investigations into his administration as well as his businesses and finances. The Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month that it was halting New Yorkers’ access to Global Entry and other programs that expedite airport clearance for preapproved travelers because of the state’s Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. But just hours before a meeting last week to discuss the block with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Trump tweeted that “New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment [sic]” and “build relationships.” State Attorney General Letitia James has issued subpoenas for Trump’s financial records and is pursuing multiple investigations into the Trump Organization.
New York City
Michael Avenatti, the brash attorney who became a cable news fixture while representing President Trump’s alleged mistress Stormy Daniels, was found guilty last week of trying to extort $25 million from Nike. Prosecutors said Avenatti was in “crushing debt” when he began representing a youth basketball coach who alleged that Nike was making illegal payments to high school athletes. Avenatti, 49, threatened to reveal the payments unless his client received $1.5 million and he and one other lawyer got $12 million. In a recorded call last March, Avenatti also demanded $25 million from Nike to conduct an internal probe into illegal dealings with amateur athletes. He could be sentenced to up to 42 years in prison. Avenatti also faces separate fraud charges in California and additional charges in New York for allegedly defrauding Daniels. The porn star said her reaction to Avenatti’s conviction was, “High five!” ■