The lone vestige of former President George Bush's Thousand
Points of Light has the look of a wasteful, Washington-dependent
So far, the Points of Light Foundation has received $26.6
million in federal funds - more than half its budget - while
incurring a wide range of costs that amount to questionable
spending, experts in the volunteer services industry say.
An examination of financial records by the Los Angeles Times
shows that $22.3 million has been spent on promotions,
consultants, salaries, travel and conferences. The expenses include
$5.5 million to produce a television ad campaign and $1.4 million
to host a celebration of community service.
By contrast, only 11 percent of the foundation's budget has
been spent to provide grants to volunteer efforts across the
Throughout his presidency, Bush consistently promoted his
"Thousand Points of Light" campaign as the antidote for hunger,
homelessness and poverty. The expression signified the voluntary
charitable efforts of individual Americans as a substitute for
tax-supported welfare programs.
Coined during Bush's acceptance speech at the 1988 Republican
National Convention, the campaign grew in popularity to become a
signature of his administration. Six days a week, Bush honored
someone - a so-called Point of Light - for performing exemplary
In 1990, Bush launched a private, nonprofit foundation to
motivate every American to engage in community service.
The foundation has fallen far short of private fund-raising
goals and attracted scant scrutiny from Congress. Moreover, little
oversight has been exerted by chief executives from Arco, Disney,
IBM, Time Warner and other organizations who answered Bush's call
to guide Points of Light. Several prominent directors lost interest
and rarely attended board meetings, records show.
Despite early plans to remain a small organization, the Points
of Light payroll has more than tripled to $4.1 million. Foundation
President Richard F. Schubert, who was hired after he resigned
under pressure as head of the American Red Cross, is paid $160,000
a year. A 13-member executive management team receives average
salaries in excess of $80,000.
"It's crazy," said George Romney, the former Republican
governor of Michigan and one of 13 original foundation directors.
"I think they've built up too big a budget. I've indicated my alarm
and the need to cut back."
Susan J. Ellis, an expert and author of nine books on
volunteerism, added: "There's been tons of money wasted, just
wasted . . . and I don't think they can show a lot of people have
From the outset, top leaders of the foundation vowed to phase
out their reliance on government money. Instead, the organization
has grown increasingly dependent on federal funds. In August,
Congress awarded Points of Light a 30 percent increase in federal
appropriations after - the foundation plucked $551,000 from a
reserve account to meet its expenses. …