January 17, 2002 -- Using the power of his office, Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly was able to secure an extra $30 million for the Yawkey Trust. There is another word for this: extortion.

Reilly wasn’t happy with the amount the Yawkey Trust was going to get from the Red Sox sale; he thought it should’ve been more and threatened a lawsuit to get it. This would have mired the Red Sox in months of legal battle, preventing them from going ahead with the sale of the team. With Reilly’s big stick hanging over their head, the Red Sox and John Henry had to agree to Reilly’s terms.

If this wasn’t bad enough, Reilly is going to have “oversight” over the Yawkey Trust. The trust’s board is going to expand, and guess who gets to approve the new trustees? Reilly. So after extorting $30 million, he now has de facto control over the trust.

Should we look the other way on Reilly’s shake down because of the boon to charity? Absolutely not. There is something much more than money at stake here: Should the state be involved in deciding how much a charitable foundation gets and then how that organization will spend the money? Another resounding no.
Reilly’s office insists that he won’t have veto power over the trustees, and that he will be only providing “advice.” But Reilly has shown his true colors. He is willing to use the force of government to impose his personal vision of what is right. If he doesn’t like the trustees or what they are doing, his “oversight” will see that they are removed.
Reilly also claims that he has the power to make sure the money gets used to the maximum benefit. So what is going to happen when Reilly feels the money could be serving a greater purpose elsewhere? And what is going to happen when Reilly thinks that not enough was paid out to a recipient of the Trust’s generosity?
If the new trustee board decides to give a grant to Planned Parenthood, is pro-life Reilly going to interfere because he might not think that will achieve the maximum benefit?
The decisions and the actions that the Trust makes are now going to be scrutinized and evaluated by Reilly to make sure that they are attaining maximum benefit. Reilly’s office is basically going to be able to determine how much and to whom the money goes. This effectively makes the Yawkey Trust a division of the Attorney General’s office.
What is the precedent that is set here? Other charities are going to be careful about how they act, so that they will not have to undergo the scrutiny and examination of the Attorney General’s office, or the loss of control over their board of trustees.
The job of the Attorney General’s office shouldn’t be to oversee how the money is spent and who is on the board, but whether there is fraud or some other illegal activity going on. Short of this, the Attorney General’s shouldn’t have any role in a charities function.
It is for the best that the sale has been approved and the Red Sox can go about being a baseball team instead of a law firm. But it comes at the great price of the integrity of both the Yawkey Trust and the Attorney General’s office.


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