November 28th, 2012
Kristina Dodge

Kristina Dodge, who along with her husband, Larry, pledged $5 million to the Kansas City Art Institute in 2005, has responded to a recent article by Bottom Line Communications that highlighted the actions of the KCAI, which is currently suing the couple for non-payment of its pledge.

The Dodges, who have donated literally millions of dollars to a variety of causes over the years, found themselves suffering severe financial issues during the current recession.  They paid $1 million of the donation and–according to Mrs. Dodge—wanted to restructure the pledge until KCAI lawyers “manhandled us.”

She says she does not consider this a political issue.  ”It is a human issue,” she says.

Below is her comment sent to Bottom Line Communications highlighting her side of the story:

My name is Kristina Dodge (I’m the woman written about in the article) and I’d like to clear the air on a few things.  Like always, I’ll be honest, forthright and truthful.

People have asked me how I feel about the articles coming out through various outlets.  The short truth is: I feel so-so.  I’m glad that the story is getting some attention.  At the same time, I feel like the article leaves out certain pieces that I wish had been covered.

Here are a few points I’d like to clarify.

1. We signed a pledge.  That is a fact.  But we also didn’t try to back out of that pledge.  We told KCAI that we needed to restructure it.  Until the lawsuit, the endless motions and the slick way KCAI lawyers have manhandled us, we had every intention of fulfilling our obligation.  This tumult has been caused by the hyper-aggressive stance that KCAI took from the get-go.  That’s just not how you treat a family who gave you a million dollars. The lack of compassion is mind-numbing.

2. We don’t care if our name is on the building.  We don’t need that sort of attention and didn’t ever ask for it.  KCAI is using the fact that they put our name on the wall as a piece of showmanship.  We invite them to take our name off the wall, melt down the scrap metal and sell it.

3. We did not back out of the donation because we got cold feet or wanted to buy a house in the Caymans.  The banking crisis was a cataclysmic event.  Hundreds of banks requested bailouts from the federal government—an unprecedented move. But we didn’t.  My husband, Larry, still believes in the strength of the loans he made as the CEO of American Sterling—he would happily take the bank back.  Still, the idea that KCAI could be so callous in the midst of a global economic meltdown is patently absurd.  It’s odd to me that an institute dedicated to the arts (which aim to offer people a more nuanced understanding of the world in which we live) seems primarily focused on limiting this discussion to being either black or white.  There are shades of grey.  The fact that KCAI wants to ignore the complexity of the situation is sad.

4.  KCAI has been aggressive in ways that don’t befit a charitable organization.  In the coming days, I will be putting video of my KCAI legal-deposition online.  The KCAI lawyers were ferocious and rude.  I was asked if I “knew what the word job meant,” and if I “understand English.” The lawyer scoffed when he heard that my triplets have diapers.  He demanded to know why some of that diaper money didn’t go to paying off KCAI.  Seriously.

5.  KCAI lawyers told us that they wouldn’t file for a default judgment.  Then they did.  Our appeal will look at the legality of this maneuver.  Either way, it certainly isn’t ethical.

There is no hidden money.  We aren’t secretly still rich.  There isn’t a nickel under our floorboards (trust me, I checked).  We have a house but the house has a lien against it that is bigger than the estimated sale price. My husband invested everything in his businesses.  All our assets are tied to American Sterling.  I hate to lay my life bare, but the fact is, we are currently on food stamps.  We don’t have health coverage (aside from my husband’s Medicaid).

6.  My husband and I don’t consider this a political issue.  It is a human issue.  KCAI is acting in a way that does not respect the human dignity of a family who, to-date, has given them a million dollars.

On a final point, I have been touched by the support many of the commenters have had for my family and I.  We are in the midst of a trying time and have drawn strength from a wide range of places.  The kindness shown by readers, their ability to share our outrage and see our point of view has buoyed my spirits.

If you agree with us on this matter, please take two minutes to email the office of the KCAI president ( and tell her that: “though KCAI is acting within legal boundaries, their behavior is mean-spirited and lacks the sort of compassion we would hope they would help foster in their students.”

Thank you for your interest in this story. Whether you side with Larry and I or with KCAI, please know this: we are regular people, doing our very best to support our family and live happy lives.  When we had resources, we were notoriously generous with them. We have made every effort to handle this in an honest, accountable, forthright manner.

All my best,

Kristina Dodge

22 Responses


    Great Reply. I’m glad she’s able to tell her side of the story.

    It’s also nice to see that the “rich” are not cold hearted snobs. Some people really want to do the right thing.

    I don’t blame them one bit in light of the treatment they have received from KCAI and their lawyers.

    I originally thought that sending an email to KCAI wouldn’t make a difference since I wasn’t a big donor….I still may, but they obviously don’t care about them either!

  2. Patrick O'Hare says:

    To KCAI: a pledge is NOT a contract. It is a gesture of goodwill. If you were STUPID enough to spend $$ that was not in your hand, you should run for governor, because it would be obvious that you are oblivious to the notion of fiscal responsibility.

  3. Rick Nichols says:

    Well, it would appear from this that Mrs. Dodge isn’t dodging any of the tough questions that apparently have been directed toward her and her husband by either the media or the lawyers. Far from it. So good for her! I very much appreciate her honesty.

    For more information & my side of the story, please visit: I don’t want anyone to think that we are hucksters or cheats. We are a couple who was hit hard by the banking crisis, doing our best to recover and trying to keep a family afloat. Thank you all for your support.

  5. Ike says:

    They give food Stamps to Millionaires now? RIIIIGHT considering her house puts her over the Maximum amount one can have in assets I find that VERY hard to believe. Lets see a Picture of her holding HER EBT card.

    • says:

      Food Stamps are based on INCOME not on your home especially since she mentioned that the debt against the home is more than the current market value. In addition, even in bankruptcy one can exclude their home.

      • not buying it says:

        She states their income is the husband’s ss check. I don’t for a second believe her, but for the sake of argument, having been a banker owner for decades I am assuming this is a good sized check.

  6. not buying it says:

    Do you really believe they give food stamps to people living in 10 million dollar beachfront houses? It’s not even her only house. Lady, until you are truly poor, you owe all your creditors. Including all the charities you screwed over with your phony donations.

    • JohnLandsberg says:

      It seems to me that the Dodges have donated millions of dollars to colleges and other places over the years. The Art Institute seems to be the only place in the nation going after them for not fulfilling their pledge.

      • anonymous says:

        From a very close source to the situation. Comments by the parties do not mirror reality.
        When you are liiving this lifestyle, food stamps are not warranted. Think about the millions of people who don’t have a place to live …. especialy in a beach front home and claim they don’ t have food to feed the children. And yet they maintain the first born daughter in a $25k/year private school. Time for a reality check.

  7. Ashlee says:

    If this isn’t an eye opener for future donors to KCAI and other schools I don’t know what is. I would not donate $100.00 to KCAI, if my son or daughter was considering attending school there, it would not happen. The callous legal attack will hurt them more than help them. The Dodges have lost it all, they have nowhere to go but up.

    Good luck to the Dodges.

  8. Derek says:

    I take issue with Mrs. Dodge’s #6th point. This is a contractual issue. It is Mrs. Dodge whom continues to humanize the story to her benefit. KCAI is not treating you in a demeaning way. C’mon. God forbid you get asked some uncomfortable questions in a deposition madam! Free advice: Don’t take the bait from the opposing attorney! You look more and more like the wealthy, idle rich socialite, every day, with your indignant posturing, not to mention your ignorance of the law in questioning the ethical behavior of opposing counsel filing for default judgement??

    NOTE: It’s practically SOP to file for summary and default judgemnts. If I were a Trustee of KCAI, I would sue as well to legally enforce the contract you signed. If KCAI does win a $4mm judgment, then the Dodges can file personal bankruptcy, in which time, a true accounting of their finances will need to be made to the bankruptcy court. You won’t be visited by guys named “Rocko” looking to collect on the debt if you can’t pay.

    Otherwise, with all the hardship that the financial crisis has wreaked on truly every day, middle class citizens, I find it hard to sympathize with Mrs. Dodge and the untold suffering she is feeling from a so-called scornful lawsuit. Pride cometh Mrs. Dodge.

  9. says:


    Those posting despicable messages to Mrs. Dodge must be the Owebama voters. They believe in beating on those they perceive as “rich” with absolutely no sympathy as times change.

    Surely all of us have at one time made a “pledge” (promise) and then due to unforeseen circumstances are unable to fulfill that promise. Ever promised your kid to play ball after dinner and then you got an important phone call, realized you forgot a important meeting, it rained, etc.?

    There but for the grace of God go I.

    • Derek says:

      Did it ever occur to you that KCAI is suing the Dodges for breach of contract, not out of spite or mean-spiritedness (as Mrs. Dodge is spinning), but rather, as a necessary legal measure required by their liability insurers and/or the financial institutions that may have financed the construction of the building? KCAI had no reason to believe the Dodges would not execute on their contract, given their history of giving. Furthermore, this written, bona fide contractual “pledge” was used to underwrite the construction of the new building: Surety bonds/working capital/etc.
      I suspect KCAI will need to work with their banks to restructure whatever loan or mortgage is against the building…and those banks will want a degree of certainty (i.e. court judgement) that the Dodges cannot pay. Mrs. Dodge may state that their penniless (I don’t doubt they have little liquid assets – cash ), however, what type of retirement and pension savings do they have? Are there any offshore accounts perhaps? Remember, you can keep your primary residence and most retirement assets in a personal bankruptcy. For Mr. Dodge, whom is of retirement age and owned the bank for 30 years, it would not be unusual for him to have well over $5mm in legit retirement accounts that will stay his.

      So No….I don’t give Mrs. Dodge the benefit of the doubt and she will have her day in court to prove they cannot pay and, most likely, still live better than 99% of the population. Does it look “bad” for KCAI to sue a benefactor…of course it does. Perhaps the monies should have been put in escrow, as opposed to the Dodges making promises to pay, based on future earnings. Mistakes on both sides were made. I think KCAI’s hands are tied on this as a way to demonstrate that a big part of the financing for the building is gone.

      As for me being an “Owebama” supporter demonizing the rich, you’re wrong honey. Don’t politicize it. Finally, I think it’s Ironic that Mr. Dodge, whom we can assume would be deemed a sophisticated financial professional, didn’t diversify himself over 30 years and contractually pledged money he apparently hadn’t earned yet.

  10. not buying it says:

    People would be sympathetic if her husband hadn’t been involved in bank FRAUD, which is why they are in the position they are in. Why they lost their bank. Trying to shame KCAI in the media to get out of their commitment is hardly dignified. This story about their supposed hardships is laughable. Just because other charities haven’t sued them yet doesn’t mean they don’t want to or won’t. Pledging 5 million is not the same as signing up with your church for a monthly automatic withdrawal. I am sure contracts were signed with lawyers for both sides present. KCAI is doing the right thing with suing to hold these people accountable to their promises.

  11. Bob says:

    “People would be sympathetic if her husband hadn’t been involved in bank FRAUD, which is why they are in the position they are in. Why they lost their bank. Trying to shame KCAI in the media to get out of their commitment is hardly dignified. This story about their supposed hardships is laughable.

    Just because other charities haven’t sued them yet doesn’t mean they don’t want to or won’t. Pledging 5 million is not the same as signing up with your church for a monthly automatic withdrawal. I am sure contracts were signed with lawyers for both sides present. KCAI is doing the right thing with suing to hold these people accountable to their promises.”

    All of this. Right there. Facts.

  12. James says:

    Unless the Dodges have money squirrelled away somewhere the KCAI needs to get a life. Even if the couple of Company do have money squirrelled away the courts will take it so KCAI is throwing their money away. My guess is that KCAI does not trust and that is the underlying reason for the lawsuit.
    KCAI needs to rebrand the building, lick the wounds that are its pride, and move on.
    That being said The Company, “American Sterling Corp.,” was another, of many, financial institution with a get rich quick strategy. The Company was playing with other peoples money and the Dodge’s were living an irresponsible life both personally and corporately.
    I feel sympathy for the children of this couple. I feel very little sympathy for the Dodges. I do feel sympathy for the people of this country who, on so many levels, have to bear the burden of the BK of the Company and the Dodges.

  13. Mandy says:

    Wow, so her husband committed fraud and now she is mad that they are being treated like frauds?

  14. Lee Lacy says:

    I used to work for the Boy Scouts of America in their professional service, where fundraising was the main part of the job of a District Executive. It was common for people to make pledges, then never pay them. Often, a donor made a pledge so not to lose face in front of a boss, family member, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.
    I cannot recall the BSA ever strong arming someone to pay. We always treated outside donors with dignity, whether they paid their pledge or not. We never committed uncollected funds.
    On the other hand BSA employees, to include low paid clerical staff, were regularly bullied into making both BSA and United Way pledges, but that’s another story. What a PR disaster for the KCAI.

  15. R Steven Snider says:

    Shame on you!

  16. Upset says:

    Wow Larry and Kristina. I know you are going through a rough time but how could you let my mom clean your house and work for you and one day you guys disappeared with no explanation and did not even pay her the months that she cleaned your house? I think that is very low of you.
    Do you know how much my mom has to work and you didn’t even think about her? You guys know perfectly well all the things she has to go through. If you guys ever feel like paying my mom her money then please contact me.

Leave a Reply