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The Mapping Project

Seth Klarman, and the Klarman Family Foundation

Seth Klarman is a Boston area billionaire, who is the chief executive of Boston-based hedge fund Baupost Group and the cofounder and of the right-wing Zionist media outlet The Times of Israel. Seth Klarman along with his wife Beth Klarman run the Klarman Family Foundation, which financially sustains Zionist organizations that support and enforce Israel's colonial domination over Palestinians, as well as the charter school movement which seeks to privatize public education. Klarman's hedge fund Baupost Group profiteered from the colonial "debt" the US government holds over the people of Puerto Rico, demanding Puerto Ricans pay back in full "debt" Baupost had bought up at pennies on the dollar, suffocating the Island while its people were attempting to rebuild following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria. 

Funding Israel's colonization of Palestine

The Klarman Family Foundation donates large sums of money to pro-Israel lobbying organizations, think tanks, media outlets, and university initiatives. These include:

(The Klarman Family Foundation's 990 forms are available here.)

In addition to these direct donations, the Klarman Family Foundation makes substantial donations to Donor Advised Funds and other intermediary organizations which channel money into Zionist organizations. Donor Advised Funds function as recipients of large sums of money from wealthy individuals, money which DAFs then channel to those wealthy donors' desired recipients as donations from the Donor Advised Fund, without the necessity of public transparency that the donation came from the specific wealthy donor. In this way, Donor Advised Funds allow wealthy individuals to financially support organizations without the public necessarily knowing that they are doing so, or knowing the extent to which they are doing so. Pro-Israel Donor Advised funds and other similarly-functioning intermediary organizations to which the Klarman Family Foundation has made donations include:

Klarman also supports science initiatives, which are framed from a Zionist perspective. These include:  

In addition to funding to Zionist organizations through his foundation, Seth Klarman has leadership roles within multiple Zionist organizations:

Promoting Zionism in the K-12 education

Klarman also uses his wealth to shape educational curricula taught in US schools, pushing curricula that supports Israel and Zionism. Klarman funds and serves as Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees of Facing History and Ourselves, a self-styled social-justice K-12 curricula development organization. Broadly, Facing History and Ourselves promotes curricula which approaches slavery, genocide, racism, and other forms of oppression as painful episodes within an otherwise positive liberal project of American democracy (episodes which must be "faced"), without challenging or advocating the dismantling of the fundamentally white supremacist and colonial character of the US state, US Empire, or the US-dominated global capitalist system. Specifically, Facing History and Ourselves encourages educators to use material that valorizes Israel and highlights the experiences of Israelis, while remaining generally silent on the experiences of violence and oppression endured by the Palestinian people living under Israeli apartheid. When they do create content that includes Palestinians, Facing History generally erases the experience of Palestinians as a people enduring and resisting ethnic cleansing and apartheid (see entry on Facing History and Ourselves for more information). The Klarman Family Foundation donated a total of $22,865,663 to Facing History and Ourselves from FY01-19. In FY14 and FY15, Klarman Family Foundation made $2 million in donations to Facing History and Ourselves which were specifically earmarked "To strengthen the Jewish community and support a Jewish democratic state of Israel."

Alongside donations to organizations facilitating Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the Klarman Family Foundation donates millions annually to organizations and initiatives which the Foundation categorizes on its financials as supporting "Arab Israeli Employment and Education" [sic]. By insultingly labeling Palestinians as "Arab Israelis," Klarman attempts to relegate Palestinians in '48 Palestine ("Israel") to the position of a minority group who can at best aspire to integration into Israeli society through educational and economic advancement, rather than an indigenous group who should, and do, aspire to reclaim the land and resources Israel has stolen from them. Recipients of donations which the Klarman Family Foundation categorizes as supporting "Arab Israeli Employment and Education" work toward precisely these conciliatory political objectives. However, even such unacceptably narrow political objectives for Palestinians living in the '48 are thwarted by other Zionist organizations the Klarman Family Foundation sustains through massive donations. Palestinians in the Naqab (Negev) desert, for example, can hardly hope to advance educationally or economically whilst their villages are being repeatedly demolished to make space for new Jewish settlement and National Forests facilitated by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an organization Klarman supports generously.

Profiteering from for the colonial exploitation of Puerto Rico

In addition to his deep support for Israel's colonial domination over Palestinians, Seth Klarman has been complicit in colonial violence against Global South peoples more broadly through his hedge fund Baupost Group (Klarman is Baupost's CEO). While the Puerto Rican people were struggling to rebuild following the devastation wrought upon the island by Hurricane Maria, Baupost Group held and demanded repayment of $931 million worth of bonds which entitled Baupost to a piece of Puerto Rico's "debt." Baupost Group bought these bonds at a rate of pennies on the dollar, before insisting that the Puerto Rican people should them pay back "at par" (ie at 100 cents on the dollar). As David Dayan reported in a 2018 piece in The Intercept:

[Baupost] had been hiding $911 million in COFINA bonds, a debt instrument backed by sales tax receipts, through a shell corporation named Decagon Holdings. A disclosure last week from the COFINA bondholders said that Baupost’s investment had increased to $931 million. Klarman has consistently dismissed cries for debt cancellation for Puerto Rico, saying the island would be better off in the long run repaying its debts. Baupost bought the bonds on the cheap and would reap a huge payday if paid back at face value.

This bond debt that Baupost CEO Seth Klarman insists the island would be "better off in the long run repaying" to billionaires like himself, cannot in reality be paid by the people of Puerto Rico. Paying down the debt even partially is only possible through disastrous austerity policies which deny basic essential services to the Puerto Rican people. As longtime Puerto Rican activist Juan Gonzalez wrote in a separate 2017 piece in The Intercept: 

During the past two years, the commonwealth [or Puerto Rico's] government has sharply raised electricity and water rates. It has increased the sales tax (now a value added tax) to 11.5 percent. It has proposed ending all pensions for new workers and cutting existing benefits by an average of 10 percent. And last week, it announced the closing of 179 public schools for the coming school year. In addition, the control board has called for a $450 million cut over the next four years to the island’s 70,000-student public university.

Insisting that the Puerto Rican people go without essential services so US-based hedge funds like Baupost Group and US billionaires like Seth Klarman could become even richer was morally perverse, to say the least. Even more so given that this "debt" Puerto Rico "owes" is the direct result of the US government's over a century-long (and ongoing), violently-enforced policies of colonial plunder of the Island for the purpose of extracting of its sovereign resources to enrich the United States. Rather than Puerto Rico owing a "debt" to the United States, in reality the United States owes the Puerto Rican people reparations for over a century of theft, abuse, and violent repression.

To this day, Puerto Rico remains a "territory" (which is to say, a colony) of the United States. The United States denies the Puerto Rican people even the illusion of sovereignty over the management of their own affairs and economic resources. Key decisions about the island's finances are made not by Puerto Rican representatives elected by the Puerto Rican people, but by a fiscal control board called the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMBPR), appointed by and accountable to the interests of the US government, US corporations (like Baupost), and US billionaires (like Seth Klarman). Puerto Ricans commonly refer to this US-imposed fiscal control board as "la junta de control" in a (not unfounded) reference to military "juntas" that the United States and its regional backers have violently imposed upon nations across Central and South America and the Caribbean over the past century to repress attempts by peoples in the region to engage in policies such as land reform and the independent development of their own sovereign resources.

The immorality of Klarman's insistence that Puerto Ricans should repay at par the debts Baupost Group bought up at pennies on the dollar came into even sharper focus following the devastation wrought upon the island by Hurricane Maria in 2018. In the midst of deaths estimated at 3,000 people (which Puerto Ricans insist is a drastic undercount) and damages to the island estimated at $94.4 billion, rather than forgiving Puerto Rico's (colonially-rooted) "debt" in order to allow the Puerto Rican people breathing room to rebuild and repair essential civilian infrastructure, Baupost Group remained firm in its insistence on its right to enrich itself from the COFINA bonds it had bought up at pennies on the dollar.

Following Hurricane Maria, Baupost's profiteering from Puerto Rico's debt came under increasing scrutiny from Puerto Rican and other Boston area community members. Community members demonstrated repeatedly in front of Baupost's Boston office, while Harvard University students and community allies demonstrated at Harvard to demand that Harvard divest from its nearly $2 billion worth of investment in Baupost Group. Harvard students also protested Seth Klarman's participation as a keynote speaker at an Investment Conference at Harvard Business School. Students at Yale and Cornell similarly protested to demand that Yale and Cornell divest from the hundreds of millions USD commitments each held in Baupost Group. (See also: here and here.)

Amidst this heightened negative publicity, Baupost Group chose to quietly sell off its holdings in Puerto Rico's debt in the first quarter of 2019, as reported in Bloomberg. While it is not confirmed how much Baupost made from the sale of these bonds, Bloomberg notes that Baupost likely profited from the sale, given the typical values of the COFINA bonds in 2017 when Baupost purchased them relative to the typical values of the bonds in the first quarter of 2019 when Baupost sold them off.

A portion of the wealth Baupost Group extracted from the people of Puerto Rico through its holding of these bonds has undoubtedly flowed into Israeli colonialism in Palestine, given Baupost CEO Seth Klarman's role as a major donor to organizations which support Israel's colonial domination over Palestinians, as outlined above.

Support for the privatization of public schools 

Klarman is also a supporter of the privatization of public education through charter school expansion, and is an opponent of teachers' unions. A financial report released by the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance shows that in September and October of 2016, Klarman donated $3,000,000 to "Families for Excellent Schools," the lobbying group fighting for the passage of Amendment #2, a 2016 Massachusetts ballot measure which, had it passed, would have increased the cap on the number of new charter schools that could be created annually in Massachusetts (Amendment #2, was opposed by public educators and defenders of public education statewide). In 2012, Klarman donated $250,000 to Stand for Children Inc., amidst Stand for Children Inc.'s intensive effort to lobby the Massachusetts state government for legislation to weaken the standing of Massachusetts teachers unions. The Klarman Family Foundation has also donated $200,000 in FY18 and FY19 to Teach for America, an organization which as Sandra Korn explains, "undermines the American public education system from the very foundation by urging the replacement of experienced career teachers with a neoliberal model of interchangeable educators and standardized testing." Klarman has also donated to KIPP Massachusetts Fund Inc., which funnels money into the large national charter-school chain KIPP. As reported by Leo Casey, KIPP schools "recruit young, novice teachers, often through Teach for America, and their staff experiences a very high rate of turnover. This tamps down salary and pension costs, which are by far the major expenditures in education, but it also has detrimental effects on teaching and learning." 

Other influences in the Boston Area 

The Klarman Family Foundation also donates to a wide array of Boston Area educational, medical, science, art, human services, and/or political advocacy organizations. Some of these organizations directly support Zionism, and are included on our map, such as: Berklee College of Music [$1,185,000 from FY10-19], Boston University [$425,200 from FY11-16], Emerson College [$175,000 from FY12-15], Mass General Hospital (MGH) [$1,500,000 from FY17-19], Northeastern University [$400,000 from FY14-15]. Other Boston area recipients do not directly support Zionism. However, due to relative scarcity of city, state and federal resources made available for human services, arts, and advocacy organizations in particular, even these organizations are likely becoming increasingly dependent on donations from private individuals and foundations like the Klarman Family Foundation, in their struggles to sustain their annual operating budgets, and are accordingly bound by the political interests of their funders. In Klarman's case, these political interests include support for Zionism and Israel as well as support for charter school expansion and opposition to teachers unions. For example, putting on a theater production or gallery exhibit highlighting Palestinian experiences may be an untenable risk to a small arts organization which could not easily shoulder losing the portion of their annual budget currently sustained by the Klarman Family Foundation. 

Private foundations: redirecting resources from the tax-base to the preferred charities of the wealthy

Assets held within a private foundation, as well as gains on those assets, face considerably less tax liability than to assets held as personal wealth. Moreover, private foundations enable wealthy individuals to use tax write-offs to reduce the taxes they have to pay on all of their assets, including assets they hold outside of their foundations as personal wealth. Such tax-evasion is perfectly legal, on the condition that a foundation's disbursements (donations + expenses) in a given fiscal year equal at least 5% of the fair market value of that foundation's total assets from the previous fiscal year. 

The fair market value of the assets within the Klarman Family Foundation at the end of FY19 equaled $838,896,973. Seth Klarman's estimated net worth stands at $1.5 billion, meaning that Klarman holds over half of his total wealth within his family foundation, with all of the reductions in tax liability this arrangement facilitates. Moreover, because the Klarman Family Foundation's assets are invested in corporate stocks, assets within the Foundation have in recent years yielded considerable gains which, as noted above, face considerably less tax liability relative to gains on assets held as personal wealth. In FY19, for example, assets within the Klarman Family Foundation produced revenues from interest, dividends, along with gains from asset sales totaling $23,074,304.

Rather than benevolent ventures through which wealthy individuals give away their money for the public good, private foundations should be understood as strategic financial maneuvers through which the wealthy reduce the taxes they must pay into public budgets in exchange for committing to donate a portion of the (under-taxed) wealth held within their foundations to their preferred charitable causes. The Klarmans use the Klarman Family Foundation as a tax-free stock portfolio for over $800 million of their wealth, while funneling derivative income from these stocks into organizations and institutions supporting Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland.


The second address included on the map (St. James Ave, Boston, MA) comes from Baupost Group's SEC filings.

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