New video released Thursday afternoon indicates National Public Radio intended to accept a $5 million donation from fictitious Muslim Brotherhood front group Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC) Trust – and that the publicly funded radio network might have helped MEAC make the donation anonymously to protect it from a federal government audit.
When a man posing as Ibrahim Kasaam asked, “It sounded like you were saying NPR would be able to shield us from a government audit, is that correct?” NPR’s senior director of institutional giving, Betsy Liley, responded, “I think that is the case, especially if you are anonymous. I can inquire about that.” According to conservative James O’Keefe, whose Project Veritas organization conducted the NPR sting organization, the man posing as Kasaam made two follow-up phone calls to Liley after their lunch.
Liley said a $5 million donation would amount to about “10 years of support.”
Kasaam follows up by asking: “The fact that NPR is not only a tax-exempt organization, but also receives direct contributions from the government — does that invite some sort of government oversight or government examination of contributions, et cetera?”
Liley answered: “They have audited our programs at times and, I think, as part of that, they can look at our audited financials. If you are concerned in any way about that, that’s one reason you might want to be an anonymous donor. And, we would certainly, if that was your interest, want to shield you from that.”
Liley mentioned a precedent at NPR — in more than $80 million in donations from universities.
“As I said, like this guy that I used to work with who gave – where I used to work for the university, I don’t know, $5 or $10 or $12 million, he was just entered into the database as anonymous,” Liley said. “I knew who he was and about five other people did, but there was no paperwork in any official place that identified him as that donor.”
With that remark, Liley was likely referring to her time at Purdue University, where she was the assistant vice president for corporate and foundation relations. Liley said she and NPR have taken millions of dollars in donations anonymously before.
“We also got an $8 million gift,” Liley said. “I don’t know if you remember this; about two years ago a number of institutions, higher ed institutions, all with women as presidents, got donations that ranged from $5 million to $12 million. They were never identified who the gifts were from, but they totaled about $80 million dollars.”
The man posing as Kasaam asked Liley whether NPR accepts anonymous gifts on a regular basis, and if the process they were talking about was common among NPR fundraisers.
“I don’t know if they – I know at Purdue we were a public institution, so we were part of government, and therefore our books could have been, you know, open to any inquiry from a member of the public,” Liley said. “You’re a private nonprofit, and so we have a different standard. We do comply with government audit but I don’t think that they go into our donor database.”
Following their phone calls, Liley checked with NPR’s senior management, and sent an e-mail to the man posing as Kasaam saying MEAC was cleared to make an anonymous donation of $5 million.
“NPR can list MEAC as an anonymous donor in our database, which would mean we would not disclose the organization’s name,” Liley wrote in the e-mail to the fictitious Kasaam. “We do not publish a list of gifts, so it would not be an issue there.”
Liley’s e-mail addressed the MEAC representatives’ concerns about government audits: “The audits of our governmental grants are conducted by the same firm we hire to do our NPR financial audit.”
Liley wrote that she’s “awaiting a draft of a gift agreement from our legal counsel and will share it when I have it.”
That e-mail directly contradicts NPR’s public statements issued in the wake of O’Keefe’s first video. “The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept,” NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said in NPR’s official response.
The new video shows recently ousted NPR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller knew of her subordinates’ meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood front group. “Vivian knows about our meeting as my email indicated I think for her to feel – for us to prep her appropriately for the next meeting, it would be great to have some more information from you guys,” Liley said. “But Ron and she talked, and I shared notes from our meeting about kind of where you are in your interest, and so I think for us to do kind of our due diligence, it would also be helpful to get some of the background information [on the organization and on its leadership.”
Liley was referring to now former NPR Foundation president Ron Schiller, who made disparaging remarks about the Tea Party movement and Jewish people. He was set to work for the Aspen Institute, but has since decided against going to work there.