WHOSE CHOICE? / Second in a four-part series
Published Monday, December 13, 1999
Brennan Foundation funds school business
By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger
Beacon Journal staff writers
The Brennan Family Foundation has steered much of its charitable contributions to programs that have some relationship with the family's education business, according reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
The single largest recipient of aid has been the Interfaith Elementary School in Akron, opened in 1993. Interfaith, which received $264,500 from 1996 to '98, was the Brennan family's second venture into operating a school.
In 1998, Interfaith was closed and reopened as a charter school and now receives the same guaranteed funding as a public school. Foundation contributions to the school stopped at about the same time.
Interfaith and its successor, Hope University Campus, contract with Brennan's for-profit education company for services.
David Brennan's first involvement in operation of a school was as a trustee at Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, which was separated in 1991 from financial control of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. The high school received $100,600, the second-largest aid from the family trust.
A Better Way of Life is a nonprofit government contractor, from which the Brennan businesses receive management fees. A Better Way of Life provides literacy programs for welfare recipients and received $50,000.
Hope for Cleveland's Children was a nonprofit organization set up by Brennan and used to support two voucher schools he started in Cleveland. Hope received $47,000, according to reports.
The Buckeye Institute and the Ashbrook Center are conservative nonprofit research groups that have produced numerous position statements and reports supporting school privatization and have specifically mentioned the Brennan schools. Buckeye received $32,500 and Ashbrook $42,500, according to the records.
Nonprofit groups must file an annual report with the Internal Revenue Service and the Ohio attorney general, and those reports are public record.
Wealthy families and businesses often use foundations as ways to manage their charitable contributions. In years when profits or income are expected to be high, contributions can be made to the foundation to reduce taxes owed to the government. The foundation money can be invested to earn even more money.
The Brennan Family Foundation was created in 1995 with about $750,000 in assets.
The foundation was established as David Brennan and his business partners prepared to divide the assets of their Brenlin Corp. and the Brenlin Foundation.
When the assets were distributed in late 1996, $2 million was transferred from the Brenlin Foundation to the Brennan family foundation. In addition, companies controlled by Brennan transferred income into the foundation.
In the 1998 report, the foundation showed distributions of about $521,645 to charitable organizations.