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Watchdog Groups Question Sen. Bunning's Foundation

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning's foundation has
donated tens of thousands of dollars to charitable groups in
northern Kentucky, but it's the amount he has kept as a salary that
has drawn the attention of watchdog groups critical of the Kentucky
Republican.
The nonprofit Jim Bunning Foundation, which was set up in 1996
to collect money the Hall of Fame pitcher gets from autographing
baseball memorabilia, has taken in more than $504,000, the
Lexington Herald-Leader reported Thursday, citing Senate and tax
records.
Of that amount, Bunning has earned $180,000 in salary, the
newspaper said. By contrast, the foundation has given $136,435, or
about one-fourth of its income, to churches and charitable groups
around northern Kentucky.
Records show that Bunning is the foundation's sole employee and
the only person to draw a paycheck from it, the newspaper said.
Bunning, 77, plans to seek re-election in 2010.
Watchdog groups this week said the foundation blurs a number of
Senate ethics and Internal Revenue Service rules regarding outside
income for members of Congress, legitimate uses for tax-exempt
charities and whether Bunning - as a paid employee - improperly
dominates the foundation's board.
"For him to be taking more for himself than he gives to the
charities just doesn't look good, no matter how you cut it," said
Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of
Philanthropy in Chicago.
Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard referred all questions to Rick
Robinson, a foundation board member.
Robinson defended Bunning's salary, saying there couldn't be a
Jim Bunning Foundation without Bunning.
"The foundation is a charity that hired Jim Bunning to work for
it," said Robinson, a former congressional aide to Bunning.
"Without hiring him to do this, the charity wouldn't have any
income."
Robinson said Bunning created the foundation so he could collect
money from his baseball memorabilia autographs without violating
current Senate limits on outside income.
"Quite simply, 1996 was the year that Jim Bunning was inducted
into the Hall of Fame," Robinson said. "Suddenly there was an
opportunity for Jim to go to card shows because of his new status
as a member of the Hall of Fame. That's a big thing."
Senators are discouraged from making much money outside of their
$169,300 Senate salaries. But they are allowed to establish
charitable foundations, which can accept the honoraria and other
income they once were permitted to take personally.
Bunning started his foundation with the approval of the Senate
ethics committee and the IRS, Robinson said.
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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,
http://www.kentucky.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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