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Secretary of State John Kerry’s Daughter Financed Nonprofit with $8 Million in Taxpayer Funds

Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter started a non-profit organization that trains doctors and nurses in Africa; she used more than $8 million in funds provided by American taxpayers over seven years to do so.

Dr. Vanessa Bradford Kerry is the CEO of Seed Global Health, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that obtained its initial funding of $2 million for three years from the State Department, through the Peace Corps, in 2012 in a no-bid award. At the time, Kerry’s father, a Democrat, represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate and served as chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which approves the State Department’s budget each year.

As the Daily News Foundation reported, Seed Global Health’s contract with the Peace Corps, funded by the State Department, was renewed for another $6.4 million for four years in 2015, again on a no-bid basis. At the time of this contract renewal, Dr. Kerry’s father had been serving as secretary of state for two years.

Breitbart News asked Mark Marino, Chief Development Officer of Seed Global Health, two questions about this unusual arrangement:

  1. Is it ethical for an organization headed up by the daughter of the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (at the time of the initial no-bid contract), and subsequent Secretary of State (at the time of the follow up contract) to obtain a no-bid contract with the Peace Corps, funded by the State Department?
  2. Why did CEO Vanessa Bradford Kerry choose to fund her personal charity activities not through her own giving, but rather through the taxpayers of the United States?

Marino responded quickly to Breitbart News with this answer:

No conflict of interest exists in Seed Global Health’s partnership with Peace Corps and the US government.

For the record and to clarify false statements, Seed Global Health CEO Dr. Vanessa Kerry’s father, Secretary of State John Kerry, has had no role or influence in the decision making for the Global Health Service Partnership either in the Senate or at the State Department. The process of developing the public-private partnership adhered to full governmental procedures and policies, was transparent, and involved interagency and Congressional approval. The Peace Corps, the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Seed Global Health are on record as describing the origination of the partnership as responding to a federal mandate to train 140,000 healthcare workers globally. The funding for the program was subject to Congressional oversight by a subcommittee (not including Secretary Kerry at any point) and, as per all programs under the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Congress was given 10 days to review or comment on the requested appropriations where no objections were made.

Further, Dr. Kerry’s salary cited was erroneously reported as being drawn from Seed. If you review our IRS 990 financial reports, it will show Dr. Kerry’s compensation from Seed is zero dollars. The compensation reported erroneously online in 2014 is from column E and column F, labeled “other compensation” and was related to Dr. Kerry’s role at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Seed is a non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization with a mission to strengthen health education and delivery in places facing a dire shortage of health professionals by working with partner countries to meet their long-term health care human resource needs. Seed provides technical expertise to the Global Health Service Partnership and works closely with Peace Corps in areas of volunteer recruitment, training, and support. Seed specifically works in the areas of medical, nursing, and midwifery education focused on human resource capacity building, making it different than other non-government organizations. The Global Health Service Partnership has trained over 10,000 doctors, nurses and midwives over its first three years through the public-private partnership. Our plan is to make our partner countries self-sufficient so we are no longer needed and US aid and development money can ultimately be reduced.

Additionally, Seed is the only organization that provides debt repayment for US doctors, nurses, and midwives to serve internationally, something Seed does entirely through private philanthropy. Over the eight-year period of the public-private partnership agreement, Seed will raise an additional $23 million through its own effort in private philanthropy to support the program. Part of this funding is to help support the Americans serving in the program with debt repayment. By the end of this year, Seed will have helped offset $3.5 million of debt for 147 US physicians, nurses, and midwives through private funding so that the volunteers can donate a year or more to working in a resource poor setting.

A partnership between the Seed and the US government represents the best of the public and private sectors – to establish the most effective and efficient program of its kind.Given the early success of our model, we have expanded to two additional countries this year, at the request of the local country leadership, to train a total of 21,000 doctors and nurses in the next 3 years. Additionally, data shows that working abroad increases a health professionals likelihood to work with underserved specialties and underserved populations here in the US when they return.

Breitbart News advised Marino that his answer was not responsive to either of our questions.

“I recommend fully reading my statement and you will observe that we do, in fact, answer your two questions quite thoroughly,” Marino responded.

But a “full reading” of Marino’s statement offers no answer to either of our questions.

Breitbart asked if it was ethical for Secretary of State Kerry’s daughter to seek and obtain $8.4 million in federal funding for, in essence, her private charitable project, and Marino responded by saying that it was legal and “not a conflict of interest” for her to do so.

An action that may be technically “legal” may not always be ethical as well.

Marino’s response also failed to address a fundamental question about the proper role of government when it comes to charitable activities.

Prior to the advent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” in the 1930s, Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” in the 1960s, and Barack Obama’s expansive, national debt-doubling federal government spending since 2008, most wealthy Americans funded their charitable projects with their own private funds.

According to its 2012 990 Form, which covers the period from January 1, 2012, to September 30, 2012, Seed Global Health’s initial funding, obtained prior to the Peace Corps contract, was for $5,000 in 2011, and $372,384 in 2012, $10,284 of which came from “government grants,” and $362,100 from “contributions, gifts, and grants.”

Though Seed Global Health’s contract with the Peace Corps for $500,000 in the first year of its three year, $2 million contract became effective as of September 10, 2012, the organization’s 2012 Form 990 does not recognize revenue from that contract in the accounting period that ended twenty days later, on September 30, 2012.

Secretary of State Kerry is wealthy. His daughter, Dr. Vanessa Bradford Kerry, is also probably wealthy in her own right through inheritance from her mother, though her personal net worth has not been reported in the media.

Kerry’s net worth has been estimated at $194 million. His first wife, Julia Thorne, Dr. Vanessa Bradford Kerry’s mother, came from a wealthy family, as well.  Julia Thorne died in 2006.

Kerry’s second wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, the widow of former Sen. John Heinz (R-PA) (heir to the Heinz Ketchup fortune), has an estimated net worth of $1 billion.

Dr. Vanessa Bradford Kerry is employed as an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Medical School.

Read the 2014 financial report of Seed Global Health here.

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