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What is Van Jones doing with Jeff Bezos’ $100 million gift?

It’s been eight months since Jeff Bezos emerged from the tip of his phallic rocket, peered under a cowboy hat, and rewarded charity chef Jose Andrés with $100 million and CNN commentator Van Jones, the first recipients of his somewhat vaguely titled book The Prize.

The gifts are for charitable purposes without any other strings attached. “No bureaucracy. There is no committee. They just do what they want,” Bezos said at the time.

Andrés, who feeds people after a humanitarian disaster through his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, says he has spent millions of dollars helping war-torn Ukrainians. The group is preparing meals 24 hours a day at eight border crossings, supporting local restaurants in 12 cities, and providing food to refugees in Romania, Moldova and Hungary.

As for Jones? This week, he revealed some specifics about his plans for the big charity and through his spokesman declined to comment for this article. However, after contacting The Daily Beast, Jones posted an update on his Facebook page on Thursday night noting that he is “reviewing the opportunities” and “conducting due diligence,” saying added that the award gave him 10 years to disburse the funds. .

Benjamin Soskis, a senior research associate at the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, says the contrast between Andrés and Jones’ visibility may reflect their preparation to quickly process such a large amount of cash. Prior to Bezos’ surprise account, Andrés had a track record of running a philanthropic group on a very large scale, so “it comes as no surprise that he continues to do the work he is doing… With Jones, I think not more clear. “

Jones has a background in the nonprofit world, particularly in the area of ​​criminal justice reform. He co-founded Dream Corps, an organization that helps reduce the prison population in the United States, and the racial justice organization Color of Change.

He is also the Founding CEO of Reform Alliance, a nonprofit focused on similar issues launched after rapper Meek Mill’s arrest.

Jones’ work has also sparked controversy, including when he pushed for President Donald Trump’s police reform policies on CNN in 2020 — allegedly without telling viewers he cooperated. with Jared Kushner on the project, as The Daily Beast reported that summer. (Jones negative that he attended any meetings on the subject. However, he noted in a podcast last year that he “did a great deal” in working with the Trump administration to help “those behind bars.”)

The gift from Bezos in July clearly caught both Andrés and Jones off guard. At the time, Jones told CNN he received a call from the Amazon founder just days before the announcement.

Jones then attended a press conference in Texas after Bezos’ spaceflight, where he put his hand to the test of the world’s second-richest person. “Sometimes dreams come true,” he said of the award. “You have lifted the ceiling from the dreams of mankind today.”

The gift’s crudeness – which had the stage of a public relations stunt – was seen by some as Bezos’ attempt to silence criticism of the space tourism billionaire and to accommodate publicity that his ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, received for her record-breaking charitable endeavours.

“Sometimes Scott’s approach is [characterized] like throwing money out of a plane. And it’s not. Soskis said: “There was a lot of research and scrutiny and attention before the gift. “From a distance, it’s not clear that Bezos did it.”

To the extent that Jones has yet to announce plans for the fund, Soskis blames Bezos for not sufficiently informing him. But he says going eight months without giving specifics “doesn’t look great.”

Elizabeth Dale, an associate professor of nonprofit leadership at Seattle University, told The Daily Beast that Jones’ lack of transparency is explainable, as “World Central Kitchen could easily accept the much more cash”, while Jones had to determine “how to spread that money around”.

CNN’s head of conversation provided limited details about his plans. In an interview in October, when Insider asked how he would deploy the funds, he replied, “Uh, very carefully.” He said he would release more information in 2022 and that his efforts would likely align with his previous work “breaking down prisons, pollution and poverty.”

That same month, he got a little more enlightened on the first episode of his podcast, Uncommon Ground, which featured Andrés as a guest.

“One of the challenges when you’re a good worker, most people see me as the guy who’s always commenting on TV. They don’t understand,” Jones said. “If you see me sitting next to Anderson Cooper for five minutes on the nightly news, the other 23 hours a day… I’m out there doing other things, mostly working with nonprofits, organizations community.”

Jones said he wants to take that work “to the next level” by supporting efforts to reform the criminal justice system. “I think the entire incarceration industry should be disrupted in the same way that Jeff Bezos broke up bookstores,” he said.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/what-is-van-jones-doing-with-jeff-bezos-dollar100-million-gift?source=articles&via=rss What is Van Jones doing with Jeff Bezos’ $100 million gift?

Russell Falcon

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