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Senior MIT officials knew that now dead sex offender was giving the school money

A review by an outside law firm of MIT's ties with disgraced, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein turned up a letter thanking him for a contribution signed by the school's president, L. Rafael Rief.

In a statement today, Rief says:

First, the Goodwin Procter team has found a copy of a standard acknowledgment letter thanking Jeffrey Epstein for a gift to Seth Lloyd – as far as we know now, the first gift received at MIT after Epstein’s conviction. I apparently signed this letter on August 16, 2012, about six weeks into my presidency. Although I do not recall it, it does bear my signature.

Second, it is now clear that senior members of the administration were aware of gifts the Media Lab received between 2013 and 2017 from Jeffrey Epstein’s foundations. Goodwin Procter has found that in 2013, when members of my senior team learned that the Media Lab had received the first of the Epstein gifts, they reached out to speak with Joi Ito. He asked for permission to retain this initial gift, and members of my senior team allowed it. They knew in general terms about Epstein’s history – that he had been convicted and had served a sentence and that Joi believed that he had stopped his criminal behavior. They accepted Joi’s assessment of the situation. Of course they did not know what we all know about Epstein now.

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I apparently signed this letter on August 16, 2012, about six weeks into my presidency. Although I do not recall it, it does bear my signature.

aren't you the president of MIT? wow.

in 2013, when members of my senior team learned that the Media Lab had received the first of the Epstein gifts, they reached out to speak with Joi Ito. He asked for permission to retain this initial gift, and members of my senior team allowed it. They knew in general terms about Epstein’s history – that he had been convicted and had served a sentence and that Joi believed that he had stopped his criminal behavior. They accepted Joi’s assessment of the situation. Of course they did not know what we all know about Epstein now.

are you going to be able to fit EVERONE else under the bus L?

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Epstein's convictions and the other accusations pending at the time of his death are despicable. That said, when he donated he had served his sentence and under our system had paid his debt to society. Even with the new allegations, what if Epstein had bequeathed his $80 billion or whatever to MIT? Would they have refused it? It's not like he was endowing a child sex abuse tutorial. I say take his money and improve the world. A cure for cancer would be remembered long after the scumbag who paid for the research.

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this is a top notch troll account

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trafficking teenage girls for the sexual gratification of rich and powerful creeps might be bad, but what if that trafficking network generated profit$ that we could use to fund cushy research positions? What THEN?"

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people really haven't been able to completely ascertain HOW he made his money. it has been widely speculated that at least a sizable portion of his wealth was given to him by the founder of victoria's secret (ie - his NYC mansion) and that he was the protege of a man who was convicted of running a 450 million dollar ponzi scheme, who has since implicated epstein as part of that scheme.

So, if his money was from a ponzi scheme, money laundering or from blackmailing people for whom he facilitated sex with minors for, then his money is as dirty as he is.

beyond that, its generally unwise to take money from scumbags who are being charitable to try to improve their public image.

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killed strikers at US Steel, but we still benefit from his libraries. Frankly, i'm not sure where to draw this line. (See also Koch, mentioned below.)

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Most people with large sums of money to give to schools have shady pasts. Epstein might be worst than most, but any school who investigates their donors and rejects tainted money won't be getting many donations.

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"Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, public buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."

Noah Cross, the Epstein-esque character in Chinatown.

And as a corollary, you can add: "And buy respectability with their charitable contributions...."

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Most?

And Epstein might be worst than most? Ya think, dude?

Come on. There are plenty of folks with cash to donate who do not rape little girls.

And in regards to AC, yeah he was a bad man who like to fund things like libraries. He had his heyday breaking up strikes and hiring the Pinkerton Agency and his right hand man, Frick, to do his dirty work. Those strikes occurred over 100 years ago and should be remembered and studied. But let us focus on the current reality. Any institution that exists today and that is thinking about accepting money from a potential donor should do vetting on where it is coming from.

Both MIT and Harvard's endowments (16 and 38 billion (2018) and that is "billion" with a "B"), singularly and combined, have more money than God; they can afford to be choosy where they get their cash.

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Most people with large sums of money to give to schools have shady pasts.

Is this your gut feeling or do you have something to back this up?

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Behind every great fortune there is a crime.
—Balzac

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A cure for cancer would be remembered long after the scumbag who paid for the research.

This is the reasoning behind MIT's Koch Institute for Cancer Research, but it still makes me uneasy. How much cancer have the Koch companies caused?

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Andrew Carnegie was a ruthless Steel Entrepreneur in a period where a lot of the financial and business operations more resembled Tombstone Arizona than Mother Teresa's. In the pursuit of building the dominant steel company in the world in 1900 -- he ran over many people. Included in the people run-over was Frick a peer of his [and a consummate "Robber Barron" himself. Morgan, Rockefeller, Ford, Edison, Westinghouse, Melon, etc. -- all great entrepreneurs and ultimately all mega philanthropists operated in a way [circa 1900] which today would be considered completely unethical and in some cases illegal.

That said -- there is a "World of Difference" between a donation received from the Rockefeller, Ford, or Carnegie Foundation -- isolated for several generations from their founders activities and now governed by modern business ethics and laws -- than a donation directly connected to Epstein, Madoff and the like -- the latter’s' entire businesses were immersed in illegal activities [circa now].

It gets a bit harder to properly characterize money donated by individuals who benefited from the activities of an [Epstein or Madoff] -- the donor may not even be aware of the questionable or even un-ethical practices which benefited them. Several major philanthropists made money the old fashion way and then greedily tried to multiply it by "Investing" with Madoff [getting in early they did multiply it via the Ponzi Scheme Madoff was operating]. They then donated some of their real money and some Madoff stolen money to unwitting organizations.

Now comes the case of the Sackler Family [Purdue Pharma which profited greatly from the widespread distribution of Oxycontin and the resultant epidemic of addiction to Opioids. They have been mega philanthropists to several museums and other organizations in the past decade. Purdue Pharma will likely seek bankruptcy protection based on settlements with several states over Opioids -- the family is also kicking in a couple of "tainted? Billions" and dumping their control over Purdue. Probably not likely to do much philanthropy for a while.

Now we come to Koch -- one of the brothers who just passed away in the past week.
I know some people on this forum hate Koch Industries and the Koch family -- Intrinsically and one could say Irrationally. They hate Koch not because of what the company does or that the family has contributed to charities of many types. Their hatred is driven simply because Charles Koch is an unapologetic Libertarian and they are a closet if not open Communist.
In their view Koch's political philosophy taints anything associated to him -- despite the fact that in many cases the person protesting is nearly completely ignorant of the history of Koch Industries -- including its local outposts*1 and Koch's wide ranging philanthropy [MIT, Museum of Fine Arts, WGBH to name a few local beneficiaries].

For more than five decades, Koch Membrane Systems, Inc. (KMS) has led the way in developing innovative membrane technologies that serve a diverse range of industries and applications around the globe. KMS provides comprehensive membrane filtration solutions to many markets, including municipal, food and beverage, life sciences and industrial processes, focused on helping thousands of its customers to recover high value products, reduce their water footprint, increase productivity, and reduce costs. KMS is headquartered in Wilmington, Massachusetts, a suburb north of Boston but has employees located worldwide. The right person will be technically strong (engineer preferred) and needs to have a deep understanding of at least one of the following technologies: membrane filtration, filter presses and cartridge filters, ion exchange, centrifuges and clarifiers, separators, decanters, evaporators, and crystallizers. The right candidate will also be able to learn the other technologies as needed.

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They hate Koch not because of what the company does or that the family has contributed to charities of many types. Their hatred is driven simply because Charles Koch is an unapologetic Libertarian and they are a closet if not open Communist.

That there is some major league bull crap.

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I am not a fan of the Koch brothers because, well, let us just say it has nothing to do with their political leanings and I am not a communist (wow). He and his brother were evil, pure and simple.

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... when you have hundreds of billions of dollars.

Why pay taxes when the Koch economy is larger than a lot of countries?
These guys were/are evil.

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could kill a lot more people in the long run than cancer does. And it's inconsistent with the purpose of a scientific institution.

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Like Kim Jong Un?

That slander doesn't work anymore.

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The comparison I'm trying to make is not to taking money from the Carnegie Foundation a century later, but to Carnegie's original library-building program, which started while the steel strike and the Pinkertons were still fresh in everyone's mind. It was dirty money, and yet we are still all better off for having taken it.

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Ask any cancer patient, I bet they just want a cure, don’t care who funds it.

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I'm a cancer survivor. I'm glad that David Koch is rotting in Hell right now and I hope Charles isn't far behind.

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Well, of course more people knew about it, but a President that does not recall it "although it does bear my signature" is almost too perfect. So what heads will roll now?

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It's funny that people are pouncing on the MIT president for not recalling signing one letter seven years ago.

I imagine he signs hundreds of letters a year just to donors, never mind other kinds of correspondence. What does his lack of memory about one such letter mean for the larger conversation?

FWIW I also found the Globe headline on this aggravating for the same reason. As if he was hiding the fact that he knew he signed a letter and that this means nefarious and evil things...

Of course, what Ito did to hide everything was despicable because he clearly knew this was a tainted funding source. I just find it interesting how much the press is hanging onto this one interaction that happens every day.

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They’re Dooooomed. All doooomed sez Magoo. Magoo.

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I am not trying to troll or be contrarian, but what is wrong with MIT soliciting and/or accepting Jeffrey Epstein's money? Yes, he was vile, but they weren't honoring him, naming a building after him, or making him Commencement speaker. Am I missing something? As far as I know, they didn't publicize the donations, and he didn't derive any public-relations benefit or social redemption. He got a tax deduction, not a ticker-tape parade.

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and made the women who work there pretty uncomfortable, knowing that they were in the presence of a convicted and unreformed sex offender. If it were just donations of money, this might be less of a scandal.

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he was a serial rapist and he raped little girls? And you do not understand this?

That is more than vile, my friend.

So, following your logic, if a really bad man who hurts other human beings does not get a ticker-tape parade, it is ok to take money from him?

And you do not have any qualms with institutions who hid the money received from this creep?

Wow.

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...which no one is questioning. Good virtue signalling, though. Well done.

The question is, what's wrong with MIT taking donations from him.

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Is apparently "Having a Conscience in Public" to you. Sick burn, Ayn Rand.

I'll say it for you in terms you'll understand, you oh so proud amoral dude. When you take money from a blackmailing child rapist, you sully the reputation of your institution while justifying the donor's behavior and rehabilitating his reputation.

You "signal" that hey, this guy isn't THAT bad.

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...if they were publicizing his name and helping him try to rehabilitate his reputation. It seems they did the exact opposite. I know you would prefer they didn't accept the donations to begin with, but aren't you making the argument for secrecy rather than transparency?

In the best of all possible worlds, all his victims should be fully compensated, if that's even possible given the tragic damage they suffered. But what if he had donated millions to Planned Parenthood or PBS? Would they be obliged to refuse it?

Should the Koch name be removed from the buildings they funded because they are evil?

Should the Jimmy Fund be shut down because one of its main benefactors was racist?

Should JFK be cancelled because his political career was funded by his father's bootlegging income?

Can evil people's money be used for good purposes?

[Edited to correct the Jimmy Fund section. I was referring to Tom Yawkey. I know nothing about the founder. Sincere apologies.]

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I know very little about Einar Gustafson, beyond what the charity's Wikipedia page says. Can you tell us more?

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Sorry about that.

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aren't you making the argument for secrecy rather than transparency?

Even in your nightmarishly amoral world, secrecy didn't work so good, did it? The "best and the brightest" TRIED to keep it secret, but it's even worse when it comes out. MIT looks like garbage right now, and the Media Lab itself is in jeopardy. MIT is going to be paying the price for this for years, and they should.

As to your other questions, of course there's a spectrum of evil and there aren't always easy answers about WHERE to draw the line for institutions, but blackmailing child rapist money? I'm pretty comfortable about which side of the line that should be on.

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TL;DR version:
Here's a good way one short article sums things up (https://www.axios.com/jeffrey-epstein-mit-billionaire-favors-d77c4065-76...):

The bottom line: Epstein found it very easy to maintain his web of influence even after he had been jailed for sex crimes. Thanks to people like Ito [former MIT Media Lab director], Black [billionaire], and Gates [billionaire], Epstein's post-conviction life was filled with money, access and esteem.

The long read:
Epstein's continual thing after getting indicted the first time was to use his wealth to buy influence, and through that influence, minimize his actions, responsibility, and allowed him to stay buddy-buddy w/ the elite he rubbed shoulders with.

He donated to a school a NY Times biz reporter was the fundraising chair of, at some point. This reporter guided the NYT's coverage on Epstein post-indictment back in 2007/2008. The spin was this was a rich, talented guy w/ a prostitute problem. Not a guy with a pedophile sex trafficking problem, which he was. The reporter claimed this was not a violation of journalistic ethics because he was no longer reporting on Epstein, only using him as a source. Still, his take influenced how the stories were reported. The reporter was fired once this all came to light. A decade too late.

After serving his minimal sentence, Epstein continued billing himself as a patron of science and curator of innovative research at elite institutions for the wealthy. He introduced rich buddies to researchers and their work. He donated to MIT, solicited donations for MIT, and claimed to have personally funded teaching of physics to elementary school kids in Africa, through the work of the MIT.

This philanthropic connection to MIT was a way for Epstein to signal he was rehabilitated, and that what crimes he committed couldn't have been that bad. This was a man whose wealth relied on getting other rich people to trust him with their money. His stock should have dropped to zero after the details of his crimes were known.

Epstein's own wealth and access to others' wealth apparently made MIT turn a blind eye to where the money was coming from, and what benefits it held for Epstein.

An organization I work with planned a Fall fundraiser at the MIT Media Lab over a year ago. We decided we had to change venues. Hence, why I'm all read up on MIT's malfeasance in dealing w/ Epstein.

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He donated to a school a NY Times biz reporter was the fundraising chair of, at some point. This reporter guided the NYT's coverage on Epstein post-indictment back in 2007/2008.

This part is not in the Axios article that you linked to. It's from some other place. Can you link to where you got this from?

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https://www.npr.org/2019/08/22/753390385/a-dead-cat-a-lawyers-call-and-a...

It's the last section of this article from NPR. About 3/4 down my scroll bar.

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That is a really helpful, thoughtful response. Appreciate your perspective.

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