Doug La Follette, Wisconsin's secretary of state, has been thinking lately about his life and legacy. The 70-year-old Madison resident doesn't have children or some other "obvious choice" to bequeath money to. But he does have a child, of sorts, in the group he helped found 40 years ago: Wisconsin's Environmental Decade, now Clean Wisconsin.
"It's an emotional thing for me," says La Follette, who recalls using a mimeograph machine to produce the Decade's first newsletter; now it's the state's preeminent environmental group. "This is something I'm very proud of."
La Follette, who has logged 32 years as secretary of state (he's seeking reelection this fall against GOP hopeful David King), came up with an idea to keep folks educated on environmental topics. And then he got to thinking: "Why should I wait until I die?"
And so he's made plans to donate $100,000 to create an endowment fund with the Madison Community Foundation for use by Clean Wisconsin to bring in environmental speakers.
Ann Casey, the foundation's vice president of finance and planned giving, says the fund, a componentof the larger foundation, would currently generate an annual distribution equal to 4.75% of its value. And over time, the seed amount could grow substantially with reinvested earnings and contributions from other donors.
"The goal," says Casey, "is that all of our funds growto keep up with inflation so the amount of the distribution has the same buying power in future years."
The Doug La Follette Environmental Speakers Program aims to fund two speakers a year, at locations around the state. The first such event - set for Thursday, Sept. 30, at the UW-Madison Pyle Center, 7 p.m. - will present Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute and senior counsel for the Center of Biological Diversity.
Siegel won a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court to extend Endangered Species Act protections to the polar bear due to the harm caused by climate change. She's drafting similar petitions for other species.
The event, stresses La Follette, is "free and open to the public," as they will all be.