Nonprofit that runs schools in Haiti rejects Kraft donation
The president of a Rhode Island-based organization that provides free schooling for hundreds of impoverished children in Haiti has rejected a $100,000 donation from Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots owner who is facing prostitution charges in Florida.
Patrick Moynihan, who has led the Roman Catholic boarding school since 1996, turned down the charitable donation on April 10, only hours after it had been offered, while Kraft and his lawyers fought allegations that he had paid for sex acts in January at a strip-mall spa.
“The last thing I wanted was a donation from Robert Kraft,” Moynihan said last week. “I could not be silent. I had to stand up.”
Moynihan, who is the brother of Bank of America chairman Brian Moynihan, said the decision was “gut-wrenching” because large donations are the lifeblood of the Haitian Project, which educates 353 students in seven grades at the Louverture Cleary School outside the capital of Port-au-Prince.
The school has a $1.36 million budget this year for noncapital expenses and hopes to create a network of nine schools throughout the country, an expansion effort that Kraft wanted to support with his donation.
Moynihan said a donation of $100,000 would cover a year’s expenses — education, lodging, and meals, among other costs — for an entire class of 50 students. Louverture Cleary does not charge tuition and relies exclusively on donations to operate, he said.
“$100,000 is hugely significant to us,” Moynihan said. “I represent the needs of people who have a singularly terrible situation — a lack of assets. But we cannot do good by doing bad. The ends cannot justify the means.”
Moynihan, a former commodities trader turned Roman Catholic deacon, said he began reaching out to Kraft in fall 2017 in an attempt to discuss his work in Haiti. Moynihan said he did not receive a response, even after he hand-delivered a packet about The Haitian Project to Patriots headquarters at Gillette Stadium last October.
A Patriots staff member said he would relay that information to Kraft, who Moynihan hoped would consider a donation because of his friendship with Moynihan’s brother and because Sony Michel, a Patriots running back, is the son of Haitian immigrants.
Six more months passed without a reply, and Moynihan assumed his efforts had gone nowhere.
Then, in a surprise, Moynihan received an e-mail three weeks ago from Dan Salera, a consultant who said he advises Kraft on philanthropy.
“Robert would be honored to support your leadership and the work of The Haitian Project at this pivotal moment for the organization and the people you serve,” Salera wrote, according to e-mails that Moynihan provided to the Globe.
“Question for you: Would you like the payment in one lump sum or spread out over two years? . . . Congratulations on the gift.”
By that time, Moynihan said, the prostitution charges against Kraft had changed his thinking about the donation. He rejected the offer after discussions with his senior staff.
“As an institution working diligently to empower women and provide them with the opportunity for strong, healthy economic futures, we must be clear and resolute in communicating the message that prostitution is always wrong,” Moynihan wrote Salera.
Neither Salera nor Kraft’s spokesman responded to requests for comment. Kraft has contributed millions of dollars over the years to charities and nonprofit organizations, many of them small initiatives whose leaders have been startled and grateful to receive the gifts.
Kraft, 77, has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20. The visits were secretly recorded on surveillance video by police, and Kraft’s attorneys have fought to keep the videos from public view.
The charges prompted Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, to redirect $3,600 in campaign contributions from Kraft to five Massachusetts-based groups that work against sexual exploitation.
Elsewhere, the executive director of a Boston nonprofit group that works with young survivors of sexual exploitation said Thursday that the organization, My Life My Choice, will not return a $100,000 donation it received from Kraft three years ago.
“The donation is already helping significantly to protect girls from this abusive industry,” said Lisa Goldbatt Grace, the organization’s executive director.
After news of the charges broke in February, Grace reacted by saying that “the buying and selling of human beings is an egregious form of abuse. We are heartbroken by the allegations about Robert Kraft.”
In court records, a Jupiter police officer described pulling over a Bentley that Kraft was riding in on Jan. 19 after he allegedly paid for sex at the spa. Kraft told the officer he owned the Patriots and showed him one of his Super Bowl rings, the officer said.
Kraft said in March he was “truly sorry” for the pain he had caused his family, friends, and fans “who rightfully hold me to a higher standard,” but he has not admitted any wrongdoing in the case.
Moynihan, 54, said his decision was influenced by what he considers Kraft’s disregard for the corrosive effects of prostitution, and also by Kraft’s move to hire an attorney who represented Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire who was indicted in 2007 on allegations that he had abused underage girls.
Epstein eventually served 13 months in a Florida county jail as part of a secret, nonprosecution agreement that a federal judge ruled illegal in February.
“We educate young women in a country where exploitation of women, specifically prostitution, coerced sex, and trafficking, are all too common. Prostitution is never to be taken lightly,” Moynihan said.
“We can’t accept philanthropy from an individual that has not only participated and supported the industry, but refuses to recognize that it is wrong and fundamentally harmful to society. Instead, he has chosen to use every resource and legal technicality to fight it, making his reputation his only concern.”