Thursday, July 29, 2010

Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging Invites Applications for Grant Program

Philanthropy News Digest today reported that the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging is inviting applications for its 2010-2011 Academic Research Grant Program.  According to the Digest, the program "is intended to further scholarship about new or improved public policies, laws, and/or programs that will enhance the quality of life for the elderly (including those who are poor or otherwise isolated by lack of education, language, culture, disability, or other barriers)." 

The Digest continues: 

The center expects grantees to meet the objectives of the grant program through individual or collaborative research projects that analyze and recommend changes in one or more important existing public policies, laws, and/or programs relating to the elderly; or anticipate the need for and recommend new public policies, laws, and/or programs for the elderly necessitated by changes in the number and demographics of the country's and the world's elderly populations, by advances in science and technology, by changes in the healthcare system, or by other developments. Each grant recipient is required to publish an article on the subject of their research in a first-rate journal.

[In the past,] scholars in the fields of health, law, medicine, and sociology have been awarded grants. The program is open to all interested and qualified legal, health sciences, social sciences, and gerontology scholars and professionals. Two or more individuals in the same institution or different institutions may submit a collaborative proposal. Grant recipients must be U.S. citizens or legal residents of the U.S. and must be affiliated with a U.S.-based institution or organization.

The grant program annually awards up to four one-year grants of $20,000 each.

Application materials are available at the Borchard Foundation Web site.


July 29, 2010 in Fellowship & Job Opportunities, Other, Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tennessee Official: Islam May Be a Cult

In a post on today's The Lede, Robert McKay reports that Tennessee’s lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey, who hopes to win the Republican nomination for governor in next month's primary, was recently asked by a constituent to explain his position on the “threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims.”  According to McKay, the Lieutenant Governor responded, “I’m all about freedom of religion,” then went on to cast doubt on Islam’s credentials as a religion by saying: "You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it."

Mr. Ramsey’s comments about Islam were made on July 14, the same day as a demonstration against the planned construction of an Islamic center outside the town of Murfreesboro.  According to a report in the Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal, about five hundred people gathered to protest the new building, “but the majority of the crowd was already waiting, bearing signs that said, ‘I love my Muslim neighbors’ and ‘Freedom of religion.’ ”

On Monday, Mr. Ramsey responded to a request for comment from Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo by writing in an e-mail message, “My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion.”

He added, “It’s time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community.”

Mr. Ramsey's statements are not isolated.  Politicians like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have recently objected to plans for an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, not far from the site of the World Trade Center.

According to a report by Maggie Hyde of the Religion News Service, one Florida church has even announced plans to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, with “International Burn a Quran Day.”  Ms. Hyde explained:

The Dove World Outreach Center, a nondenominational church in Gainesville, has marked the date in previous years with protests against Islam. The church holds protests on other issues, such as homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion.

Church Pastor, Terry Jones, who is also the author of a book titled Islam is of the Devil, said protests are key to the mission of his church.  “We feel, as Christians, one of our jobs is to warn,” says Pastor Jones.  He opines that the goal of these and other protests are to give Muslims an opportunity to convert.

Stories like these are troubling.  What have we come to, I wonder?  Whatever happened to the notion of America being a melting pot for all peoples?  Are these days history?


July 27, 2010 in Church and State, Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Professor Fish Addresses Christian Legal Society v. Martinez -- Again

In a post on today's Opinionator (the Online Commentary from the New York Times), Professor Stanley Fish returns to a discussion of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 561 U.S. ____ (2010), in which the Supreme Court upheld Hastings Law School's right to withhold official recognition from a Christian group that restricted its membership to co-believers who not only talked the talk but walked the walk as far as Christianity was concerned.  Professor Fish addressed the issue in his post last week, arguing that "[u]nder cover of 'neutrality,' Hastings, with the [Supreme Court] majority’s approval, is imposing the goals and ideology of liberal multiculturalism on the very diverse members of the law school’s community."

This week, he states in part:

Lurking in the background of . . . cases [like C.L.S. v. Martinez] is the question of exactly what a religion is. The courts do not confront that question directly — how could they? what would be their expertise? — but when even-handed treatment becomes the rule in aid and burdens on free exercise must be tolerated if imposing them was not the law’s affirmative intention, an answer has implicitly been given: religion is just another discourse, no different than any other. That is to say, religion is not special; it is not special in the negative sense implied by the establishment clause, which by its very existence announces, “watch out, this stuff is trouble”; and it is not special in the positive sense declared by the free exercise clause, which seems to announce, “this is something the state must protect.” The evisceration of the establishment clause gets religion in the door but at the expense of its unique status; the neutering or “neutraling” of the free exercise clause completes the denial to religion of the label “special.”

In the final analysis, Professor Fish presents what he sees as the current dilemma:

Religious organizations face a choice between altering their core beliefs or forfeiting privileges enjoyed by others. The liberal state and its institutions face a choice between being faithful to the democratic principle of open access or closing the liberal door to those who are illiberal. 

He continues:

The dilemma is sharpened and even rendered poignant by the fact that liberalism very much wants to believe that it is being fair to religion, but what it calls fairness amounts to cutting religion down to liberal size. That is what the majority in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez does when it invokes the limited forum doctrine, which, according to a line of cases, should have protected C.L.S.’s expressive rights of association, but does not because expressive association is declared to be trumped by the value of non-discrimination.

Professor Fish's pieces on the case make interesting reading.  I highly recommend them.


July 26, 2010 in Church and State, Current Affairs, In the News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kellogg Foundation Awards Unprecedented $42 Million Challenge Grant to Cal Poly Pomona

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation today announced an award of $42 million for an endowment at Cal Poly Pomona to increase access to educational opportunities.  The grant represents the largest cash gift in the history of the California State University system.

“In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of our founder,W.K. Kellogg, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is proud that this grant will benefit Cal Poly Pomona in its efforts to extend and bolster educational opportunities for current and aspiring students,” said Sterling K. Speirn, the foundation’s president and CEO.  “Mr. Kellogg was a strong believer in higher education, and his vision of ‘investing in people’ has translated into the foundation’s fundamental belief that access to a high-quality education is vital to enhancing the lives of vulnerable youth.”

According to a statement released by the Kellogg Foundation, "This challenge grant, to be given over five years, significantly bolsters the university’s ability to reach out and serve underrepresented communities in Southern California, including first-generation college students and their families, military veterans and emancipated foster youth."

Responding to the announcement, University President Michael Ortiz said: "This will be transformational.  With these resources we will be able to change lives and contribute to the economic growth and prosperity of the region. The CSUs have long been the gateway to opportunity for generations of Californians, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is helping to ensure that the gateway remains open.”

The gift comes at a challenging time for public universities in California, with state support shrinking and concern over the future of higher education growing.  Kellogg believes that with this contribution to the university’s endowment, "the foundation is making an important investment in expanding access to education for all students." 

Speirn further stated: "The W.K. Kellogg Foundation's mission is to support children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society.  As the twelfth most ethnically diverse university in the United States, Cal Poly Pomona's deep commitment to and track record of providing access to quality college education for students of color strongly aligns with the foundation's work to support racial healing and to remove systemic barriers that hold some children back."


July 26, 2010 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Save the Children: Majority of States Unprepared to Protect Children During Disasters

According to a new report from Save the Children, almost five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and displaced more than 160,000 children, the vast majority of states are still not fully prepared to protect children in disasters.

The report reveals that fewer than one quarter of all states and the District of Columbia have enacted four basic safeguards to protect children who are in school or child care centers during disasters, such as requiring all licensed child care centers to have a plan to reunite children with their families and requiring schools to have a clear written evacuation plan in place.

The report, the second disaster preparedness report issued through Save the Children's U.S. Programs unit, found that 38 states and the District of Columbia have yet to enact four basic safeguards to protect children who are in school or child care during disasters, including requiring all licensed child care centers to have a plan to reunite children with their families and requiring schools to have a clear written evacuation plan. Twelve states, including Mississippi and Alabama, met all standards; seven states met none.

According to Save the Children, more than 5,000 children were reported missing after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, with the last child found six months later; some 50,000 Louisiana and Mississippi children missed the 2005-06 school year while 15,000 failed to attend school during the 2006-07 school year; and more than a third of Louisiana children experienced clinically diagnosed depression, anxiety, or behavior disorders after the storm.

"Five years after Hurricane Katrina, it is unacceptable for dozens of states to ignore these low-cost and common-sense safeguards for kids," said Mark Shriver, Save the Children U.S. Programs senior vice president. "There are sixty-seven million kids in school or child care on any given day, separated from their families and dependent on others for protection. The most vulnerable Americans in the most vulnerable settings are made even more vulnerable because of government inaction."

Truly, this is a sad commentary.


July 25, 2010 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

International Year in Review for NPO-NGO Committee Posted to SSRN

Karla Simon has posted her article in the International Lawyer to her SSRN webpage.  The article is a “year-in-review” summary of developments during the year 2009 regarding civil society organizations around the world.  The article is accessible both in hard copy and on the internet.  Those wishing a hard copy reprint should contact Karla directly at


July 15, 2010 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

China -- Foundation Center Established

The Wall Street Journal’s Realtime China Blogreported that some of China’s most recognized philanthropic leaders have gathered in Beijing for the launch of the China Foundation Center, a new organization that aims to help increase the transparency of Chinese charitable groups, which have sometimes struggled with public suspicion of mismanagement and even corruption.  The organization looks to bolster trust in Chinese foundations by making information about their activities available to the public—thus hopefully encouraging more participation in charitable work.  The center’s websitewill initially archive data on more than 1,800 foundations across China.  Chinese and international philanthropic leaders gathered for the launch ceremony, including Peter Geithner, father of the U.S. Treasury secretary and a former longtime leader in the Ford Foundation, and Xu Yongguang, founder of Project Hope, China’s largest non-governmental social welfare group.  Many of them described the new organization’s launch as mirroring crucial steps taken to improve the transparency of the charitable sector in the U.S. in the 1950’s. 

July 15, 2010 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Vietnam -- New Association Regulations Promulgated

The revised Decree 45 (2010) on the Organization, Activities, and Management of Associations, was promulgated on April 21, 2010, and took effect on July 1, 2010.  The new Decree governs the registration, operations, and activities of associations at national, provincial, municipal, and sub-provincial levels.  As explained by Mark Sidel in a recent article on the subject in the International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law, by issuing the regulation the Ministry of Home Affairs responded to calls from government regulators and the associations themselves for a more detailed regulatory document.  The World Bank and other donors also requested that the associations serving as their grantees have access to better and clearer regulations.  Some procedures have been changed from Decree 88 (2003), but procedures remain extremely complicated and make it difficult for the associations to actually become registered.  Such requirements include a pre-registration process involving the creation of a board to apply for registration.




July 15, 2010 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Two Sports-Related Charities - Stories of Excessive Executive Compensation and Mismanagement of Assets

Los Angeles:  As reported in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Dodgers paid one of their senior executives more than $400,000 in compensation from the team's charity, Dodgers Dream Foundation, in 2007.  The compensation accounted for one-fourth of the foundation's approximately $1.6 million budget that year.  The team's senior vice president for public affairs received the compensation for what the charity's records describe as a full-time job at the Foundation, whose publicly-supported mission is to serve the educational and athletic needs of children.  While receiving compensation from the Foundation, the senior VP also performed responsibilities for the team, including acting as a chief advisor to the team owner as well as the Dodgers’ chief negotiator with politicians and businesses.  He was paid an additional undisclosed salary for his work outside the Foundation.  The Times opined that the senior VP's compensation from the Foundation was more commensurate with that of an executive running a $100 million charitable organization.

Chicago:  As reported in the Chicago Tribune, despite assurances made over four weeks ago, former Chicago Bear Chris Zorich has still not located the financial records delineating what happened to approximatley $864,000 once held by his presently inactive charity, The Christopher Zorich Foundation.  In a previous article published in June, the Tribune reported that the Foundation was in "disarray," with Zorich unaware of the existence of the assets listed on the Foundation's 2002 tax return, reportedly the last one filed with the IRS.  Apparently, the IRS filed a $10,000 lien in April against the Foundation.  The Illinois Attorney General revoked the charity's registration in 2004, rendering the Foundation ineligible to solicit, receive or retain funds in Illinois.  In a June 8 interview with the Tribune, Zorich reported that the charity ceased operations in 2008, not having accepted donations since 2005.


July 9, 2010 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive, In the News, State – Executive | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Church or Fraudulent Scam?

In a recent MSNBC story, the validity of the Syro Russian Orthodox Catholic Church as a "church" is under scrutiny.  Questions are being raised about the true religious nature of the church, whether the self-proclaimed religious priests and archbishop were ever ordained, and the validity of diplomas being awarded by its affiliated university (formerly, the Notre Dame de Lafayette University of Colorado, whose assets were subsequently transferred to the Mercian Orthodox Catholic Church).  A police detective in Duluth, Minnesota spent over a year investigating the church and its seminary then located in Minnesota (now in Ohio), documenting more than $40,000 in fraud alleged by five students.  He presented his documented evidence to the Minnesota attorney general, the FBI, and the local prosecutor, all of which were reluctant to take on the case because it involved a church.

The article discusses the relatively non-evasive nature of income tax exemption law with respect to entities claiming to be bona fide churches, making it an area of potential abuse, as discussed by our fellow blogger and academic, Lloyd Mayer.  In fact, it appears that the IRS did grant exempt status to this organization as a church.  The article also reveals the slippery slope that law enforcement encounters when dealing with an entity claiming to be a church.  At a minimum, it provides a fascinating case study and teaching opportunity for any nonprofit law professor.


July 9, 2010 in Federal – Executive, In the News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IRS Seeks Comments on Impending Disclosure Requirements

As previously blogged, tax-exempt organizations are among 40 million entities that will be affected by new disclosure requirements as to payments made in the course of its operations beginning in 2012.  Accordingly, in Notice 2010-51, the IRS is inviting public comments regarding guidance to be provided as to those new reporting requirements.  Again, these new requirements imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 expand the existing information reporting requirements to apply to payments made to corporations and to include certain payments of gross proceeds and with respect to property.


July 9, 2010 in Federal – Executive, Federal – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Taxpayer Advocate: Tax-Exempt Organizations Subject to Onerous Reporting Requirements under the Health Care Act

In her mid-year report to Congress, Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson raises concerns about new reporting requirements imposed on businesses and tax-exempt organizations beginning in 2012 by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.  Specifically, she questions the compliance benefits of the new requirements to the IRS in relation to the potentially onerous burdens imposed on small business and tax-exempts.  The relevant portion of her report, as summarized on the IRS website, follows (emphasis added):

2. New Business and Tax-Exempt Organization Reporting Requirements. 

The report expresses concern that a new reporting requirement contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may impose significant compliance burdens on businesses, charities, and government agencies.  Beginning in 2012, all businesses, tax-exempt organizations, and federal, state and local government entities will be required to issue Forms 1099 to vendors from whom they purchase goods totaling $600 or more during a calendar year.  To meet this requirement, these businesses and entities will have to keep track of all purchases they make by vendor.  For example, if a self-employed individual makes numerous small purchases from an office supply store during a calendar year that total at least $600, the individual must issue a Form 1099 to the vendor and the IRS showing the exact amount of total purchases.  The provision will have broad reach.  According to a TAS analysis of 2009 IRS data, about 40 million businesses and other entities will be subject to the new requirement, including roughly 26 million non-farm sole proprietorships, four million S corporations, two million C corporations, three million partnerships, two million farming businesses, one million charities and other tax-exempt organizations, and more than 100,000 government entities.   All of these nearly 40 million businesses and other entities are subject to the new reporting requirement.

TAS has not yet reached any conclusions regarding the benefits and burdens of the requirement, but the report expresses concern that the burdens “may turn out to be disproportionate as compared with any resulting improvement in tax compliance.”  During FY 2011, TAS will study the impact of the new reporting requirement more closely and, depending on what its study finds, may propose administrative or legislative recommendations to modify the provision or suggest that Congress consider less burdensome tax gap proposals, including a TAS proposal to require reporting of non-interest bearing bank accounts, to replace it.

The concerns raised in this portion of Olson's report have been likewise discussed in articles published in today's The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.


July 8, 2010 in Federal – Executive, Federal – Legislative, Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sperm Donor's Nonprofit Organization Not Tax-Exempt

In Free Fertility Foundation v. Commissioner (135 T.C. No. 2 (July 7. 2010)), the U.S. Tax Court concluded that a nonprofit organization, The Free Fertility Foundation, created to provide a donor's sperm without charge to women seeking to become pregnant through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilizaion did not qualify for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) for the charitable purpose of promoting promoting health.  Certain portions of Judge Foley's opinion follow:

The free provision of sperm may, under appropriate circumstances, be a charitable activity. Petitioner, however, does not qualify for tax exemption because the class of petitioner’s beneficiaries is not sufficiently large to benefit the community as a whole. ... the class of potential beneficiaries includes only the limited number of women who are interested in having one man-–Naylor–-be the biological father of their children and who survive the very subjective, and possibly arbitrary, selection process controlled by the Naylors. Over a 2-year period, petitioner received 819 inquiries and provided sperm to 24 women. In deciding who receives the sperm, petitioner has certain preferences that narrow the class of eligible recipients. It is not apparent what, if any, relationship some of these preferences have to the promotion of health. ...

While Naylor may believe that petitioner’s activities “make more of a positive difference to the world than all of the inventions and scientific discoveries that * * * [he] could ever create”, we are not convinced that the distribution of one man’s (i.e., Naylor’s) sperm to a small number of women, selected in the manner presented, promotes health or confers a public benefit.

(Hat tip: TaxProf Blog)


July 8, 2010 in Federal – Judicial | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Should Corporations' Charitable Giving Be Disclosed?

In article entitled "The Democratization of Corporate Philanthropy" published in's "The CSR Blog," James Epstein-Reeves argues that corporations' nondisclosure of their charitable giving efforts is "absolutely necessary because of the sheer number of requests corporate giving officers receive."  Epstein-Reeves, described by Forbes as "a Chicago-based expert on corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, and cause-marketing and the president of Do Well Do Good, LLC," defines "democratization" as the corporate trend of philanthropic contests such as Pepsi Refresh, Kohl’s Cares, and the Members Project. He opines that these contests in which people vote for charitable giving priorities place “the general public . . . in charge of dictating a company’s giving . . . by using social media.”  Epstein-Reeves does correctly distinguish between the lack of required disclosure by corporations and the required disclosure (via Form 990-PFs) of corporate foundations' charitable giving.

In response to Epstein-Reeves' article, The Nonprofit Quarterly takes an opposing view: "So let’s get this straight.  Giving 'the public' the ability to vote for the charitable distribution of a small amount of corporate largesse is democratization and so is keeping the philanthropic grantmaking of major corporations secret. Every grantmaker makes the argument for secrecy. Remember, private foundations argued against making their 990PFs open to public disclosure too."


July 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Are Income Tax Preferences for Clergy Constitutional?

Michael L. Gompertz, a retired IRS attorney, has published Lawsuit Challenges Income Tax Preferences for Clergy in the July 5th edition of Tax Notes.  Tax Notes' synopsis follows:

In this article, the author argues that sections 107 and 265(a)(6)(B) are unconstitutional because they are narrow tax preferences for clergy that violate the First Amendment's establishment clause.  Taxpayers have standing to challenge these sections.  In Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Geithner, a district court correctly denied the government's motion to dismiss taxpayers' claims that section 107 is unconstitutional, but incorrectly granted the motion to dismiss claims that section 265(a)(6)(B) is unconstitutional.

We previously blogged about the significance of the Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Geithner case.


July 8, 2010 in Federal – Judicial, Publications – Articles, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Supreme Court: Universities Can Regulate Funded Groups' Membership

As reported by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hastings Christian Fellowship v. Martinez handed down last week addressed the constitutionality of a public educational institution conditioning access to a school-funded student organization based on compliance with an "all-comers" policy.  Like most colleges and universities, the Hastings College of Law at the University of California required all student organizations to obtain official recognition before they can receive the institution's support for their activities.  Hastings referred to such an organization as a "Registered Student Organization" (RSO).  An RSO provides a student group with several benefits, including the use of school funds, facilities, and channels of communication, as well as the school's name and logo.  In exchange, any RSO must comply with the school's Nondiscrimination Policy, which mirrors California state law barring discrimination on a number of bases, including religion and sexual orientation.  Hastings interprets this policy to mandate acceptance of all comers; namely, an RSO must permit any student to participate, become a member or seek leadership in the organization, regardless of that student's status or beliefs.  Hasting's Nondiscrimination Policy was problematic for the Christian Legal Society, which mandates that its members sign a "statement of faith" adhering to the Society's theological views, including, as the Supreme Court noted, the belief that "sexual activity should not occur outside of marriage between a man and a woman."   When seeking status as an RSO, the Society also requested an exemption from the school's nondiscrimination policy, alleging that such policy would violate its First Amendment right to freedom of association by forcing it to include members who do not share its fundamental views.  Hastings refused to grant the exemption, leading to the lawsuit.

Writing for the 5-justice majority, Justice Ginsburg explained that the Hastings case was not simply about "expressive association" under the First Amendment, on which the Court ruled in Boys Scouts of America v. Dale (upholding the Boy Scouts right to refuse membership to a gay assistant scoutmaster). Rather, the Court held that this case was governed by the "limited public forum" doctrine, which permits colleges, universities and other institutions that receive government funds to restrict First Amendment rights provided they have a valid reason.  As to Hastings, the Court found that it had valid reasons, including the encouragement of "tolerance, cooperation, and learning among students."  In response to the Society's contention that the school's nondiscrimination policy discriminated against its tenets, the Court noted that the Hastings policy affected all student groups; specifically, that a Republican student organization must admit avowed Democrats, and likewise.  Accordingly, the Court concluded that the Hastings policy draws no distinction between groups based on their message or perspective; its requirement that all student groups accept all comers is "textbook viewpoint neutral."


July 7, 2010 in Current Affairs, Federal – Judicial, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Congressional Ban on Earmarks Circumvented by Using a Nonprofit Entity

The New York Times reports that businesses are bypassing the House of Representatives announced ban on earmarks to for-profit companies by forming a nonprofit organization.  The article describes an Ohio-based defense contractor that incorporated a nonprofit research center that specializes in work similar to that performed by the company and shares the company's address.  The research center now has $10.4 million in new earmark requests from its local Congresswoman.  Similarly scenarios are reported in California and New York.  The article reports that there have been $150 million in earmarks recommended for nonprofits that will indirectly benefit for-profit companies around the country.  Profit-making companies were identified for earmark elimination because their requests, typically buried in large budget bills by friends in Congress, are questioned more routinely than those requested by nonprofit groups, including charities, educational institutions, and local governments.  Although some members of Congress are acknowledging that this use of nonprofits likely violates the spirit of the new earmark ban, they are leaving enforcement of the ban to Congressional committees.


July 7, 2010 in Current Affairs, Federal – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill Continues to Raise Issues Affecting Nonprofits and Donors

Nonprofits' Losses:  An article in the Nonprofit Quarterly raises BP's responsibility for nonprofits' decreased funding due to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  The funding crisis has arisen not due to a reduction of BP's charitable giving, but because local residents are not presently able to afford giving to local charities and churches.  Because they rely heavily on the regular tithing of their members, churches in the affected areas of the Gulf region are suffering due to the evaporating income of their regular members.  The article mentions the Anchor Assembly of God in Bayou la Batre, Alabama, which has filed a claim with BP of $50,000 to reimburse its congregation for the $12,000 loss in contributions over the past weeks and the $38,000 of anticipated losses in the next year. The church filed its claim on June 18th, but has not yet received a response from BP.  According to the article, BP is not certain how to address "a claim based on charitable giving losses attributed to the economic devastation of the spill."

Donors Beware:  As usual, a natural disaster is ripe for fraud, especially in the charitable sector.  An article in The Bradenton Times (Florida) reports that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued a “Consumer Alert” to raise awareness as to potential charitable giving fraud associated with the gulf oil crisis.  Regardless of the method of solicitation, donors should consider two primary issues when considering a donation to a purported charity:  (i) is the charity legitimate or a scam - do research to determine a charity's legitimate existence and tax-exempt status; and (ii) would my donation be better spent or used by another established charity?  As linked above, the Florida government has set up both a helpline and website to assist donors in answering these questions.


July 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Present-Day Public Policy Doctrine: Should Charitable Donations Continue to Fund West Bank Settlements?

The New York Times reports that during the last 10 years a minimum of 40 U.S.-based charities have remitted more than $200 million in tax-deductible contributions to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Although a majority of the contributions have been funneled to schools, synagogues, and other public centers, some contributions have funded housing developments, guard dogs, bulletproof vests and other commodities needed to secure the settlements.  At a minimum, the latter funding is in direct conflict with a succession of United States policy, continued by the Obama administration, opposing the settlements.  Specifically, the United States consistently restricts Israel from using American government aid in the settlements.  Although the IRS has announced that it is working on a publication to address domestic nonprofits and international activities, including consideration of additional questions on Schedule F of the Form 990, it has not announced any concentrated effort to address such charitable contributions made in direct conflict with United States foreign policy.

As discussed in a previous article on, the primary issue raised in using charitable contributions to support West Bank settlements is the public policy doctrine announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bob Jones University: an institution seeking tax-exempt status "must serve a public purpose and not be contrary to established public policy."  Of course, what constitutes "established public policy" is subject to much conjecture by legal scholars.  In Bob Jones University, the Supreme Court found that racial discrimination in education violated a fundamental national public policy rooted in judicial decisions, legislation (Civil Rights Act), and executive orders.  Does the U.S. policy on West Bank settlements meet that same threshold?  Or, is the succession of past administrations' policy opposing West Bank settlements sufficient?  Even if violation of established public policy is found, as Professor Ellen Aprill stated in the article, the IRS would be "loath" to revoke the exemption of the domestic charities that have violated such policy.  Regardless of IRS action or inaction, the continued domestic charity support of the West Bank settlements arguably poses a present-day test of the public policy doctrine.


July 6, 2010 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 5, 2010

States Looking to Reduce Charitable Contributions Deduction to Increase Revenue

As states continue to grapple with revenue shortfalls and other budgetary challenges, some are looking to reduce or cap individual taxpayers' deductions for charitable contributions.

Hawaii:  Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a tax bill on Thursday, July 1, 2010 that would have placed a temproary cap on individual taxpayers' itemized deductions for state income tax purposes until the year 2016.  Such a cap would have limited taxpayers' deductions for home mortgage interest, state taxes paid, unreimbursed job-related expenses, and charitable contributions.  The Governor specifically noted that tax-exempt organizations' concern that the proposed cap would have affected their ability to raise funds.  "It is a de facto tax increase that will adversely hurt certain individuals and businesses at a time when we should be encouraging investment and spending to recharge the economy," Lingle explained to Hawaii lawmakers in a separate letter.

New York:  As previously blogged, Governor David Paterson and the state legislature appear to have agreed on a budget proposal that would restrict the charitable contributions deduction of approximately 3,500 New York taxpayers with more than $10 million in annual earnings to only 25 percent of their charitable contributions rather than the current 50 percent. 


July 5, 2010 in State – Executive, State – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)