September 7, 2010
Congressional Charities - True Philanthropy or Political Vehicles?
The New York Times reports that at least two dozen charitable organizations created or operated by Congressional members and their families regularly receive millions of dollars in contributions from local businesses and major corporations. Currently, special interests laws do not limit corporate donations to charitable organizations affiliated with members of Congress. Although the article suggests that the pattern of donations correlates, in some instances, to legislation affecting the donor, both the Congressional members and their corporate donors deny that the fundraising events and donations are anything more than support for worthy causes that benefit their communities. However, the corporate donations usually exceed the amount that would be allowed if given to the Congressional member's campaign. At least one former Congressman acknowledges that a corporation's donation to a member's charity or cause "can create expectations that the lawmakers will return the favor."
Congressional ethics rules require corporations employing lobbyists to report donations to charitable organizations created by a member of Congress. Based on its review of public records, however, the New York Times found at least a dozen violations of such reporting requirements. In addition to Congressional ethics rules concerns, the arguable quid pro quo nature of the donation may raise deductibility concerns.
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