The charities that take blood money

There’s no point being too picky over the source of donations, but the line must be drawn somewhere.

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The Sackler Courtyard at the V&A: laundering reputations

Like most people, one likes do to one's bit for charity. And it's nice to see business leaders and their heirs giving back to society. Even when that wealth is acquired by perhaps less-than-scrupulous means, most people would agree that there is no point in charities being too picky. After all, "many of our greatest cultural icons were created and maintained by each era's most ruthless robber barons", as Allen Francis notes in The Guardian. "Are we to tear them down now because the money behind them carried an original sin?"

True, but everything has its limits. As Francis goes on to say, there is after all no Pablo Escobar Wing at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and no El Chapo Guzman gallery at the Guggenheim. So it is surprising that so many institutions are willing to accept money from the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharmaecuticals, which made a fortune marketing and selling OxyContin, the painkiller blamed for sparking America's deadly opioid crisis. By accepting their money, those institutions are allowing the family to use its "blood money" to "cloak their drug shame under philanthropic fame".

The Sacklerisation of London

And this is not just a matter of a few small cheques. The Sacklers' philanthropy is "of such a scale that they have received naming rights over some of London's most illustrious spaces", notes David Cohen in the Evening Standard. Last year the £2m Sackler Courtyard was unveiled at the V&A, emblazoned with a huge Sackler nameplate as well as a plaque honouring the late Mortimer Sackler, his third wife Theresa and all seven of his children. There are similar plaques all over London, including at Tate Modern and the National Theatre, and Sackler cash has "immortalised the Sackler name at our elite academic institutions too", including Oxford University, University College London, King's College and the Royal College of Art. In total, the charitable funds of the family have given out £110m worldwide in the past five years.

That might sound generous, but it must be set against the family fortune, estimated at $10bn, and the fact that the family has drawn more than £200m in dividends over the last decade in large part from Purdue, a company that had to pay a $600m fine in 2007 for not properly warning that the opioids it was selling were addictive. The firm is currently facing further legal action in America.

Despite all this, it's unlikely any of the Sackler money will be given back. Indeed, of the 21 American recipients of Sackler largess quizzed by The New York Times, "none indicated that they would return donations or refuse them in the future". The former head of the Lincoln Centre argues that such scruples would create a "slippery slope of shifting standards".

Perhaps, but I agree with Allen Francis, who suggests that if the Sacklers donated their money to victims of addiction, they would "leave a much more substantial and meaningful legacy" than having their name plastered on buildings all over the world.

Tabloid money the £1.8bn profit in the crack cocaine of gambling

"On Talkradio I spoke to Matt Zarb-Cousin from Fairer Gambling, who likened [fixed-odd betting terminals] to crack cocaine, and would like to see them banned," says Saira Khan in the Sunday Mirror. Evidence suggests these machines "exploit" the vulnerable, allowing them to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds. But because they rake in around £1.8bn a year for bookies, and roughly £700m in taxes, Zarb-Cousin thinks there is no appetite for axing them. He wants to see the maximum stake cut to £2, and for the number of machines permitted in a betting shop reduced to one. That sounds reasonable. "But given the vested interests at play here, I reckon the odds are about the same as winning on a FOBT."

"I take my hat off to [presenter] Zoe Ball, who cycled 350 miles in five days and raised more than £1m for Sport Relief while also raising awareness of mental illness," says Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. Ball's partner, Billy Yates, took his life last year after battling depression, and in her TV documentary about her bike ride, Ball talks about the importance of just listening. "Losing a partner to suicide must be unimaginably painful". That she is doing something so positive in response to such a profound loss is amazing. Men, who are suffering from depression, can sometimes find it hard to talk about it and that's why "we need to stop expecting men to man up', and teach our boys to be open about their feelings".

"Like every right-thinking taxpayer, I was horrified to see footage of West Midlands Police wantonly destroying a perfectly healthy looking Ferrari 458 [Spider]," says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. They said the £200,000 white sports car was uninsured and unroadworthy, having previously been in a serious accident. Even if that is correct (and the owner, businessman Zahid Khan, says different), "why the bloody hell crush it with a grab and then swing it around under a giant crane"? Why not "take it apart carefully and sell the parts?" They would have raised thousands. For his part, millionaire Khan has said the police were wrong to seize the car and is taking legal action.

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