Just a Thought – How About Consistent Community Ethics in Fundraising ?

I was at a school board meeting last spring, when a representative from PXP, Culver City’s favorite oil company was there to present a $20,000 check to the Culver City Education Foundation. While the rest of the room applauded, I did not. This, I said to myself, is just not ok with me.

Several weeks later, I interviewed Leslie Adler, the very capable women in charge at the CCEF. She was not at all concerned over accepting the donation, and said that “PXP has been a donor since 2006. This is the is largest donation they have ever given, but they have been donors for years.”

I don’t really care how long they have been donating – or who originally decided that it was ok to take the money – This is just not ok with me.

I spoke with several people on the CCEF Board. Dan O’Brien, the veep, was good enough to go on record. “Donations are hard to come by, and as one a significant as PXP offered was one we felt we needed to accept. There are 300,000 jobs in the petroleum industry in California, and some of our kids may well end up working in them. I know there are objections, but CCEF is here to raise funds.”

I understand, and this is still not at all ok with me.

I spoke to a few other people on the CCEF board, and I got some very similar responses.

But the real understanding of how they felt (I have to exclude Leslie as it was a phone conversation, and therefore voice only -) was the body language. While saying it was ok to take money from PXP, they crossed their arms over the chests, some jutted their jaws forward slightly, and more than a few felt the need to rock their weight from one foot to the other. Sometimes watching the movie without the soundtrack can tell a much clearer story. Even the people who said it was ok felt the need to defend themselves in regard to that decision, and maybe, subconsciously, felt they couldn’t quite “stand” for it.

Why take the money when the city council and the school board are both officially deploring the behavior of this company? Why accept a donation from the nemesis of everything we are trying to teach our kids?

I’m sure it’s not just me. There must be many people in this community, and many people in the CCEF who don’t want to use oil money. Let’s get together and make sure that we don’t.

If I had it, I would ask CCEF to give the twenty grand back, and replace it. But I don’t have that kind of funding and I don’t think that giving it back is the most important thing. If mistakes have been made, we are all just human, and we make mistakes. And people who don’t make mistakes, it is said, don’t make much of anything.

Don’t take another dime. Not one more penny.

The CCEF needs to stand for Consistent Community Ethics in Fundraising. They need to stand for Clean Consciences for Everyone in Finance. Clear California for an Environmental Future. I could go on, but I know you get it.

I could put this out as a petition for people to sign, or call for a boycott, but I’m going to just let the comments roll. If you think that CCEF should not take any more money from PXP – or any other oil company – Please make a comment below. Of course, if you think their dollars are as green as anyone else’s, I’d be interested to get your rationale on that, too. But with hundreds of locals turning out to oppose fracking, I’m thinking that more people will be on my side.

At the next “Tribute to the Stars,” perhaps I’ll get to present the Culver City Crossroads Award for Continuous Creativity for the Environmental Future.







The Actors' Gang


  1. Judith– As editor, you decide what is posted on your site and may not have thoroughly thought through the repurcussions of this posting. But that is not what I am writing to you about. It is the altered graphic of the CCEF logo you used at the start of your article.
    First, I thought it was blood dripping from the letters and star. But upon closer examination, I saw it was dripping oil. Cute! If I were on the Executive Board I would be extremely upset. Not about what you wrote (for it was just your opinion on the matter) but, about what you did to the logo which went way beyond just expressing your opinion.
    Did you get permission to alter such an iconic local symbol? Probably not.
    You can stand behind the protection of the First Amendment for what you wrote, but, I think you should, at least, apologize to the CCEF for the malicious way you altered their logo.

  2. It is funny how these issues never go away. Back when I was working for my college newspaper, there was a huge issue about whether we should accept cigarette advertising. There were the people who felt that cigarette companies are corporate vendors of death, and people who felt that the newspaper needed the money, and that it was up to individual readers to decide about smoking. The cigarette companies are still there, but the newspaper is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

  3. Since Lene Callis is a non-person (not a real name or address) I will be removing this comment later in accordance with the rules, but I have to say it’s flattering that someone from the public relations department of the oil company posted within hours of publication. As a gentle reminder to all, “Just a Thought” is an editorial, and yes, these are my opinions. I don’t have to cite case law, scripture, or statistics from the CDC to back it up.

    @ George – I thought about this for months before I published. I do not do things without considering the ripples in the pond and/or possible blowback. The graphic was an idea from an artist friend of mine, and I thought it reinforced the point very well. If anyone from the CCEF tells me they have legal reasons that I need to take it down, I will do that. Until then, it stays.

    This is an issue that our community needs to consider – and it may be the first case of an editorial getting a “part 2.”

  4. Chritine, great perspective. The mission statement of CCEF:
    “The Culver City Education Foundation is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and enhancing quality educational programs for every student in the Culver City Unified School District.

    To accomplish our mission, the Foundation reaches out to the community to secure funds and resources. Founded in 1981, the Culver City Education Foundation has donated millions to Culver City schools.”

    Judith, There should be no surprise that they accepted a donation which is right in line with their mission statement. CCEF is not a political organization. Refusing the money is contrary to its mission. I don’t see that CCEF is harming your children, by receiving funds to be expended toward the local public schools. They should not have to justify doing their job.

  5. Judith,

    Legal entities exist engaged in business’s of which many disapprove. There are many for whom the slaughter of animals for food is abhorant. Company’s make munitions used to slaughter humans. Too many charities use huge amounts of their contributions for overhead and payroll. And yes, some legal entities engage in the exploration and production of oil and gas. CCEF has a focused mission, to support CCUSD. To that end they should seek donations from any and all legal entities available. If they were engaged in laundering illegally obtained funds, well, that would be illegal. But absent illegal activity all the money received is of the same color, be it from a slaughter house, a munitions manufacturer, an on-line newspaper or an oil company. There is no ethical or moral dilemma as there is no illegal activity or illicit gains.

    Of course everyone has opinions and you’ve used this forum with the intent to influence others opinions. But I believe you have your eye on the wrong ball. If you oppose PXB..oppose them, not the beneficiary of their legal charitable contributions.

  6. Judith,

    Your article brings two phrases to mind. I have included definitions by others:

    The end justifies the means.

    This refers to the idea that if you need a specific outcome, it doesn’t matter how it is achieved as long as you get the desired result. For instance, if you need to pass a test in order to graduate (the end) you can justify cheating in order to pass the test (the means).

    The phrase the end justifies the means also refers to the morality of an action. It means that the morality of an action is based solely on the outcome of that action and not on the action itself. Example: Telling a lie that has no negative effect on anyone, and saves someone grief, is good. Killing someone to save others may also be morally justifiable.

    Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_does_the_end_justifies_the_means_mean#ixzz210xUZToe

    The second phrase is:
    Money talks, B.S. walks.

    Which means that cheap talk will get you nowhere, while money will
    persuade people to do as you like.

    When business needs to get done, talk all you want, but cash money is what makes things happen.

    Everyone has a price, this saying just illustrates such a fact.

    I would not single out PXP though. PXP is an easy one that stands out. People need to look below the surface.

    Charitable contributions? Fundraisers, including CCEF, may have an ethical decision that they know about. But believe me there are donors to other organizations, that can right off donations that make for great “Public Relations”, with the group they donate to. These same donors then can expect something in return and they can get it at the expense of others. Sometimes not directly with the fundraising organization, but laws and rules will be overlooked if the person is “connected”. Public Relations is just having great community “connections”!

  7. Cary,

    Other than the publicity garnered for their donation, there is no quid pro quo of favors, officially nor under the table. CCEF operates politically neutral. Next fall the CCMS science classes WILL go on a field trip to PXP to learn the ins and outs of exploration and production of oil and gas. However, I see this as a value to the students. As stated in the article, there are thousands of jobs in California in the petroleum industry, and knowing something about it from the inside could provide valuable insight to some students.

    In terms of the end justifying the means vis a vis CCEF accepting their donation; I doubt that the choice of CCEF to accept would have little effect on PXP’s bottom line. However, without PXP’s donation, CCMS science classes would be without 10 tech combos consisting of a document camera, LCD projector and secure cart.

    The document camera/LCD projector technology allows for a variety of teaching materials to be projected on any blank surface so that all students can clearly see the image, eliminating the need for other equipment. It also allows the teachers more time to devote to student comprehension, questions and more one on one interaction, greatly enhancing learning for both visual and auditory learners.

  8. Judith:

    So you want to hurt Culver City schools because you are against the big oil company? CCEF is doing wonderful things; there are great people who work very hard involved in a worthy cause.

    CCEF does not have any authority or power to make any decision on Culver City and PXP. So your beef with CCEF is……??? Lighten up!!!

    Obama took record $$$ from Oil Companies; Wall Street… did you vote for him?

  9. “The problem with money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do.”
    – Gordon Gecko, from the film, “Wall Street”.

    This is one of my favorite quotes because is it so very true.

    Schools need money and probably would gladly accept it from anyone willing to give it legally. If the district is not indebted in any way, it would seem to be a no-brainer. Take the money. First on the list should be a science class to teach kids the pros and cons of the oil industry. Get an environmentalist to come in and teach a lesson.

    The danger, in my mind anyway, is that this favorable PR will color the opinions of parents and community members when considering issues regarding the oil companies’ presence in the area. (“Hey, they helped the schools, give ’em a break!”)

    Oil companies are making record profits. This is the result of putting health and safety at risk (via methods such as fracking and offshore drilling) and price gauging. Greed is alive and well. They buy politicians and feed their greed. This is what much (though not all) of corporate America is about now.

  10. Thank you, Judith, for highlighting the conflict-of-interest in accepting a $20,000 check from PXP. Of course, for them, this is chickenfeed. No doubt they are laughing at the ease with which CCEF and ‘the Natives’ can be accommodated. For anyone who thinks there is no quid pro quo for these types of contributions, do you think they did it out of the goodness of their hearts? Wake up and observe our legislators!

  11. PXP is buying the school, reps, parents, kids, and all. They are paying them off to buy out their health. Here is a large check so we can poison you. Thank you, merci, and good luck with the cancer, asthma, and other health problems that will be caused due to PXP’s not yet regulated residential area; fracking and drilling! Cheers!

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