Murphy earmark helps fund Lemieux charity
Even as the leader of a charity, former Penguins center-turned-team co-owner Mario Lemieux needed help to reach his goals.
Congressman Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, who has spoken out against “pork barrel” earmarks, directed through an earmark that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta provide $100,000 to Lemieux's charity in 2010 to fund a public information campaign about Hodgkin's disease.
The Mario Lemieux Foundation also received more than $500,000 in state and federal grants since 2004, helping lead to construction of children's playrooms at UPMC Mercy in Uptown, St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon, hospitals in Somerset and McKeesport, and a medical facility in Gilda's Club in the Strip District.
The foundation spent $202,763 in donations on lobbyists from GSP Consulting to help raise money for the foundation.
Murphy declined comment. Lemieux was unavailable for comment.
Foundation officials defended the use of a lobbying firm, government earmarks and aid money even though the Lemieux Foundation had enough money banked to pay for its projects.
“All we're trying to do is continue to raise more and more money so that we can continue to expand the mission,” said Tom Grealish, president of the foundation.
The foundation has given out $13.8 million in grants through early 2011, most for cancer research. That doesn't include a $3.65 million pledge to revamp the Blood Cancer Institute in Shadyside.
Lemieux and his wife Nathalie gave $600,000 to the foundation. Its mission — raising money for cancer research, patient care and the Austin's Playroom Project — is personal to the family.
In the 1990s, Lemieux successfully battled Hodgkin's disease while his wife was hospitalized for three months after Austin, the couple's lone son and youngest child, was born prematurely.
The foundation employs five people, including Executive Director Nancy Angus. She said the lobbyists helped write grant proposals to gain money from larger charities because they have expertise in doing that.
The Lemieux Foundation's signature fundraising event is a golf tournament that has proven expensive to run, in terms of effort and economics, Grealish said. The tournament, which became a private event in 2006, generated a little more than $8.9 million in net revenue after incurring more than $19.8 million in expenses from 1996-2010, the nonprofit's federal filings show. The most recent tournament netted $455,000 — less than half what it brought in 12 years ago.
In fact, the foundation reported only $480,160 in assets on its 2010 990 Form filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Grealish said the foundation holds other events to raise money — notably, a fantasy hockey camp that started last year — but never will be as large as charities run by other athletes such as Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Andre Agassi.
“I wouldn't look for us to be one of those foundations that's sitting on $10-$20 million,” Grealish said. “... That's not who we are. That's not who Mario is.”
Rob Rossi is a reporter for Total Trib Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.