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Spend your moolah in your own lifetime: Green land grabbers and gigolos of the 21st century

by Judi McLeod
November 4, 2002

She lived in a day when protecting an endangered species meant allowing your pet tiger-- whose water bowl was your swimming pool--to roam freely through the house.

Left a tobacco heiress as sole heir to her father Buck’s amassed fortune at the age of 12, Doris Duke grew up to depart this earth at age 80 as one of the world’s most eccentric divas.

Of her many homes, Shangri-la was legendary. In just one three-year chapter there, she became involved with a follower of Hare Krishna and a one-time belly dancer named Chandi Heffner, whom she believed was a reincarnation of her long-dead daughter, Arden. In whirlwind order, Chandi became Duke’s adopted daughter, had her adoption reversed by her loving Mom, was banished from the kingdom and was cut out of the will. Before Chandi, Duke believed that actress Sharon Tate, slain by Charles Manson was her reincarnated daughter.

Romantically linked to swashbuckler Errol Flynn and Gen. George Patton, Duke loaned millions to the likes of Philippine President and his wife, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and was rumoured to have had a lesbian affair with the shoe queen.

In a will that provided for camels, she settled a $100,000 trust fund on her beloved dog.

But for all of the colorful anecdotes that made up her 80-year-long life, Duke was considered to be a shrewd money manager and investor. Big Daddy Buck’s $30-million inheritance spiralled to a $750-million fortune due to the tobacco heiress’s own money smarts.

The daughter, who waited a lifetime for the promised return of her father in reincarnated form, lived by his creed: "Never trust anyone."

In spite of that lifelong creed and capitalist business moves that made father and daughter rich, strangers with a left-wing political agenda managed to take over the trust and squander its money.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is just one private fortune hijacked by unscrupulous political activists.

In The Great Philanthropists and The Problem of Donor Intent, published by Capital Research in 1994 and revised in 1998, Martin Morse Wooster examines how donors committed to free markets and traditional virtues had their fortunes taken over by people they would never have considered as trust managers in life.

Not only the Dukes, but heroic entrepreneurs such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J. Howard Pew, men who championed individual liberty and free market capitalism, created foundations that ignored their founders’ ideals and championed big-government liberalism. The evidence suggests that the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts continue to fund causes their donors would have opposed.

According to Wooster, "the heads of these large foundations are somewhat defensive and apologetic about the big-government liberalism they champion, but these non-profits are still among the leading funders of the left in America today.

In fact, the gravest problem facing foundations today is the problem of Donor Intent. "Why set up a foundation, if after your death and your friends and associates are gone, the foundation then supports causes that you not only oppose but abhor?" Wooster asks.

In Dorothy Duke’s heyday, gigolos and rip-off artists may have sported tuxedos and drooping mustaches.

Today’s gigolos will rip you and your fortune off all in the name of saving the environment.

Make a few vague statements about flora and fauna in your last will and testament and it could be rip-off instead of R.I.P.

Explains Wooster, The will of Doris Duke was subject to an extraordinary complex probate case in 1994-96. (At one point, there were 100 motions on file in the case accusing various misdeeds), and it has continued to create news years after Duke’s death.

"In May 2000, Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Eve Preminger ordered a reduction from $14.1-milliom to $3.6-million in the fees paid to Katten Muchin & Zavis, the law firm primarily responsible for preparing the will. In addition, Surrogate Preminger ruled that the fees to be paid by the Doris Duke estate to the firm of Cravath Swaine & Moore be reduced from $2.5-million to $2.2-million, while those to Willie Far & Gallagher be cut from $2-million to $900,000. Stern and Greenberg’s bill was to have fallen from $790,000 to $550,000, while 14 other firms that submitted combined bills of $500,000 were only allowed to receive $240,000. All in all, Surrogate Preminger’s ruling returned $12.1-million to the Doris Duke estate--most of which will go to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation."

After such a rocky start, one would think that the estate would end on a smoother straighter road.

Read on.

According to Wooster, "In early 2002, the Duke Foundation launched another lawsuit, this time in Los Angeles Superior Court, against Katten Muchin & Zavis. It charged that the firm was negligent in drafting the will leaving money to employees of the Duke Endowment, the charity created by Duke’s father. The lawsuit charges that Doris Duke had a strained relationship and little involvement with the Duke Endowment and seeks $5.9-million in damages."

Here’s the rub: Doris Duke left very vague instructions for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to carry out. "Her will directed that money go toward the improvement of humanity," the New York Time’s Judith H. Dobrzynksi wrote in November 1988, "and made references to flora, fauna and a few other causes close to her heart. That was about it."

In this case, that was not all she wrote, but it did leave the door wide open for what was to follow.

"Joan Spero, a former Assistant Secretary of State in the Clinton administration who was named president of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, consulted with Ford Foundation president Susan Berresford, Mellon Foundation president William Bowen and Duke Foundation trustees before deciding to concentrate the foundation’s activities on three areas: land preservation, medical research and arts funding (particularly dance programs)," says Wooster.

"To preserve land, the foundation recently spent $14-million for land in New Jersey, and, in collaboration with the Robert Woodruff Foundation, spent $7-million to buy 14,200 acres of the Chickasawhatchee Swamp in Georgia from St. Joe, a major real estate operating company. The two foundations then donated the land to the Nature Conservancy which sold the property to the State of Georgia for $20-million. (See the November 2001 Foundation Watch article The Green Land Grabbers for more information about how the Nature Conservancy sells private land to government.)

And that’s just the saga of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

What’s happening with the Pew Charitable Trusts is just as tragic. "When the family members who founded the Pew Charitable Trusts were alive, they supported the principles of free markets and limited government," says Wooster.

According to New York Time’s writer Douglas Jehl, "Pew, which spent $52-million on environmental programs in 2000, with its deep pockets and focus on aggressive political advocacy is not only the most important new player but also the most controversial, among fellow environmentalists and its opponents in industry."

Wooster concludes, "The sorry record of large foundations in preserving donor intent reinforces the conclusions I made in my book.

"Donors should expect that their wishes will be ignored by strangers who take over a foundation after their friends and associates die. The best way donors can ensure that their wishes will be followed is to spend their fortunes within their lifetimes."

Meanwhile, Doris Duke, her father, J. Howard Pew and so many others must be rolling in their graves.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on, Drudge Report,, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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