Punitive Philanthropy?

The University of Wisconsin at Madison doesn’t have to say who gave it $15 million for a new music building. According to an Associated Press article in the La Crosse Tribune:

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Peter Anderson ruled last week that… lawyers cannot question the donors, and that the university does not have to confirm their names. He said the value of releasing their identities is outweighed by “the harm that would result” to the donors, the foundation and university fundraising.

The case came about after Wisconsin’s flagship university received an anonymous donation and announced plans to tear down a popular bar, Brothers Bar & Grill, to build a new building for music performances.

The university used eminent domain to take over the land where the bar sits to build the music building. The bar’s owner argued that the bar was unfairly condemned and wanted to question the donors about the university’s plans. According to the article:

The university says the $15 million gift was legally binding, and the donors will pay it in installments through 2014. The UW Foundation promised to honor their request for confidentiality, though their names would likely be on the building.

Unlike in many situations, here the donors are anonymous only to the Wisconsin public; the university knows who’s giving the money.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer