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Donation pitch bemuses baseball backers

Arizona nonprofit solicits money to bring team to Portland

Proponents of a group hoping to lure major league baseball to Portland say another contender's bid is, in baseball terms, coming out of left field.

The Phoenix-based GBP Sports & Schools Foundation said in an electronic brochure, part of an e-mail sent to various city and state officials, that it is seeking donations to be used to bring a team to Portland and solve the funding problems facing the Portland area's schools.

The brochure says the group seeks donations to: buy a major league team; build a sports and entertainment arena where the team would play; develop large-scale, multiuse buildings around the stadium; and put all profits from the team 'back into the local school system.'

GBP, which stands for Great Business Plans, seeks donations of 'cash, stocks, real estate and other highly appreciating assets' to be sent to the American Foundation, also in Phoenix. It includes an address where checks can be sent.

Scott Elle, who identified himself as GBP's chief executive, also sent an e-mail to city officials that questioned the actions of David Kahn, leader of the Oregon Stadium Campaign that hopes to bring the Montreal Expos to Portland. The e-mail said Kahn has not signed a nondisclosure agreement for meetings he has had with city and state officials regarding a stadium proposal.

The e-mail asked for minutes from meetings in which Kahn sat with officials.

'Every allegation in that e-mail is baseless,' Kahn responded.

'In a sense, it's a predictable consequence of the widespread enthusiasm that's ignited by an exciting agenda,' said Drew Mahalic, who as chief executive officer of the Oregon Sports Authority is working with the Oregon Stadium Campaign.

Officials of GBP and the American Foundation, a Phoenix-based charitable-trust developer, didn't respond to interview requests.

The GBP Sports & School Foundation, according to the e-mail, was established as a nonprofit entity through the American Foundation and the New York law firm McCanliss & Early. GBP, though, is not registered as a nonprofit in Arizona, New York or Oregon.

The brochure includes an early site design by Portland architect Steve Fosler, who's devised several renderings of potential stadiums.

'I'm not endorsing anybody's fund-raising efforts,' Fosler said. 'I gave them permission to use it as a placeholder image, nothing more.'

The nonprofit American Foundation came under fire in a May 2002 Chronicle of Philanthropy article in which Benson Schaub, the foundation's president and founder, revealed that the organization had created a for-profit arm that made loans to real estate developers from funds in the accounts.

The foundation, according to the article, further created a for-profit arm that charged its clients fees to administer the charitable funds.

'Donor-advised funds are very good products provided by very reputable companies both for-profit and nonprofit,' said Jeffrey Grubb, who manages the Portland office of the investment firm U.S. Trust. 'However, what's alleged in this article appears to be highly inappropriate. É It would be highly unusual for any donor-advised fund to invest high amounts of money in real estate.'

The Arizona Corporation Commission said the American Foundation is 'active and in good standing' with the state.

Campaign moves forward

Regarding the Oregon Stadium Campaign's efforts, Mahalic said: 'Our campaign is maintaining the highest ethical standards in our structure. That's done obviously so people have the highest level of comfort in joining the campaign.'

The campaign continued to work on various baseball fronts this week. It unveiled a Web site (www.oregonstadiumcampaign.com) to offer updates on its efforts. The group also will purchase ads to publicize its work.

Campaign members and city officials will meet March 20 with Major League Baseball officials to outline a stadium financing plan. State legislators will introduce the plan later this month.

As the group continues to mull seven potential stadium sites, Mayor Vera Katz and City Planning Director Gil Kelley said last week they no longer specifically favor the so-called Blanchard site, which houses the Portland school district's headquarters.