ON-Lion Letter
When Leona Helmsley died in August 2007, she left all but a few million dollars of her perhaps $8 billion estate to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, making it easily one of America's largest foundations.  She also left a brief document indicating that the entire trust be used for the care and welfare of dogs.

"If it were only a matter of Leona Helmsley wasting her money, no one would need to care.  But she is wasting ours, too," wrote Boston College Law School professor Ray Madoff in a July New York Times op-ed.  Rather than pay estate taxes of $3.6 billion to the government, Helmsley stipulated that the money be held in trust for perpetuity.  Madoff argues in her op-ed that "the law should not encourage people to tie up their resources -- and ours -- for all time."

Indiana University professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies Leslie Lenkowsky suggests that Helmsley may have been trying to support animal welfare as a heretofore-neglected charitable cause compared to, say, child welfare -- and that Congress and the American people give her that right.  "In a society that values individual rights, philanthropy gives those with such differing views opportunities to act on them constructively, regardless of what others may think," he wrote in a Chronicle of Philanthropy piece in August.

In early September, the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., and The Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted Madoff and Lenkowsky, along with Georgetown University's Pablo Eisenberg and Hudson's Robert Bork to discuss the fundamental questions Helmsley’s bequest raises about donor intent, social justice, and the public interest.  The Chronicle's Stacy Palmer moderated the discussion.

An edited transcript of the conversation is available online, as are video and audio recordings.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports Hudson's Bradley Center.
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