LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 06: Chief Executive Officer of Amazon Jeff Bezos (L) and MacKenzie Bezos attend the SEAN PENN J/P HRO GALA: A Gala Dinner to Benefit J/P Haitian Relief Organization and a Coalition of Disaster Relief Organizations at Milk Studios on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Mackenzie Scott, Bezos’ ex-wife, donates another $2.7 billion

MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, on Tuesday said she gave away another $2.74 billion of her massive fortune. In announcing the gifts to 286 organizations via a blog post, Scott blasted the wealth gap that she said has placed “disproportionate wealth” into a “small number of hands.”

Scott said she and her charitable team are “attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.” Amazon.com’s rapid growth has helped lift the fortunes of both Scott and Bezos, with her ex-husband’s fortune of almost $200 billion making him the world’s wealthiest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. MacKenzie Scott, ranked the 22nd wealthiest person, is worth almost $60 billion.

The gifts come after Scott in December announced she had given away $4.2 billion of her fortune to charities such as food banks and educational institutions, among others. Amazon.com’s stock has soared during the pandemic as people shifted their purchases to the online retailer, while smaller businesses often struggled given pandemic lockdowns and other restrictions. Scott’s wealth, like Bezos’, is tied to the stock market fortunes of the e-commerce company, whose shares have jumped more than 30% in the past year.

“Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them,” Scott wrote in her blog post of people she says struggle daily against inequities. “The social structures that inflate wealth present obstacles to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions that benefit us all.”

Scott’s donation follows an explosive report last week by ProPublica that found that some of the richest Americans, including Bezos, investor Warren Buffett and Tesla founder Elon Musk, pay little in federal income tax as a share of their overall wealth.

Bezos paid $1.4 billion in personal federal taxes between 2006 to 2018 on the $6.5 billion he reported in income, while his total wealth, most of it tied to Amazon stock, increased by $127 billion during that same period, ProPublica wrote. That amounts to a “true tax rate” of 1.1%, according to the investigative news outfit, which based its analysis on confidential IRS documents.

In lining up her latest donations, Scott said she and her team spent the first quarter identifying “equity-oriented, non-profit teams working in areas that have been neglected.”

Those areas are:

  • Higher education
  • Organizations that bridge religious and ethnic divides
  • Arts and cultural institutions
  • Groups that empower women and girls
  • Groups that support community engagement

The nearly 300 groups listed at the end of her blog post include nonprofits such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Indian College Fund, Chinatown Community Development Center, El Paso Community College and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. The University of Central Florida and University of Texas at San Antonio also will receive $40 million each.

Scott’s gift to the nonprofit Faith in Action will fuel its work for “years to come,” Reverend Alvin Herring, the group’s executive director, told CBS MoneyWatch. He declined to disclose the exact amount of the gift, but said that it was a multi-million-dollar donation. In her blog post, Scott said the organizations will be able to use the money as they choose.

“There are no strings attached,” Herring said of the gift, which he said would help the 50-year-old organization support its member organizations as they work on issues including gun violence, health care, immigration and voting rights. The group also has a focus on building leadership skills for women of color, he added.

Herring added that he agreed with Scott’s assessment of the issues created by widening inequalities.

“That so many in this country have so little and so few have so much — that distorts people’s notion of their value. It distorts our democracy — it is a poison and it is a cancer that has to be addressed,” he said.

The group Native Americans in Philanthropy, a recipient that connects philanthropic organizations to Native American-led nonprofits, said in a statement that Scott’s multi-million-dollar contribution will help them in their efforts to increase funding to tribal communities.

“MacKenzie Scott has recommitted to transformative work, the organizations that undertake it and the leaders whose ideas are often underfunded and overlooked,” Erik Stegman, executive director of the group, said in a statement. “It’s important to note that she has also just written checks to these organizations, leaving her own interests to the side and giving up power to the organizations she’s funding.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: AIMEE PICCHI/ MONEYWATCH
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