Interesting contrast in the news this past week about two different kinds of gifts that have gained media attention. These two gifts show two extreme sides of human nature: one side of gifts of corruption, greed, conflict of interest and quid-pro-quo....and the other side of gifts that are given to really do some good, to help those in need, and to honor those who have given much.
First, the gifts of corruption: Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska, who was indicted this week for accepting gifts from VECO, a firm that had been known to lobby Stevens for government action on their behalf. The gifts in question totaled around $250,000, and included renovations to homes, gifts to Stevens' family members. The indictment alleges that Stevens' lied on his financial disclosure forms by not reporting these gifts.
Second, the "good gift": This week CSX Chairman Michael Ward donated $1 million of his personal fortune to the "Wounded Warriors Project", to help support their Training Rehabilitation Advocacy Center (TRAC) which helps wounded veterans transition back to civilian life. This was not Ward's first sizable gift given to help his community.
Both of these stories were in the news here in Jacksonville this week, as well they should. Both of these gifts deserve to be shown - one an example of the decency of mankind, the other an example greed and entitlement.
The coverage of these two stories makes me wonder why the $300,000 land gift given by J.D. Collins to Mac Brunson in 2006 hasn't been covered in the media. Both are highly visible public figures. The gift wasn't needed by Brunson as he already was given a lavish salary and benefit package by his church. On the deed the gift was shown for "love and affection" and yet apparently they barely knew each other since it was given just weeks after Brunson's arrive in Jacksonville. For some reason the congregation was never told about the gift. There is perhaps a possible conflict of interest in Mac accepting this gift, since the giver of the gift is one of the donors of the 501(c)3 organization (FBC Jax) that Mac was hired to lead; then about a year and a half after the gift Mac Brunson aired a testimony/commercial (hyperlink of the audio of the commercial that played in the middle of Mac's preaching on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane) during the worship service highlighting the business of J.D. Collins' sons - this commercial also aired when Mac's sermon was broadcast on TV in the local Jacksonville market the following Sunday. What a coincidence that the only commercial in the HISTORY of FBC Jax ever aired in the middle of a sermon just happened to be for relatives of the man who gave the preacher a $300k gift! Not saying its quid-pro-quo...just that it looks an awful lot like it is.
I commend Michael Ward for such an incredibly generous gift - no doubt when this kind of gift receives media attention it serves as a seed for others to follow suit. While we don't have all the facts yet on Stevens' gifts, it sure looks like he broke federal laws in accepting his gifts and not reporting them.
What kind of gift was Mac's? Doesn't it at least deserve the scrutiny of local media to determine why the gift was given, and why it was accepted and what good it did for the community for a leader of a 501(c)3 organization to accept a $300,000 gift from one of his organization's donors?