Dear Friend of Philanthropy:
The New York Times recently published an op-ed written by David Callahan, founder and editor of the Inside Philanthropy digital media site, which recommends new regulations for foundations and charities which would significantly restrict philanthropic freedom. Our senior vice president for public policy, Joanne Florino, has prepared a response to Callahan titled "High Noon for Charity?" which we are sharing through e-mail and also publishing in our summer 2015 issue of Philanthropy magazine. Here is a brief excerpt:
Callahan argues that the laws governing charities are flawed and that those responsible for monitoring the sector are not doing their jobs very well. "Philanthropy...," he writes, "is a world with too much secrecy and too little oversight." While acknowledging Alexis de Tocqueville's recognition that an independent civil society is a hallmark of American democracy, he ignores Tocqueville's warnings about the dangers of an overreaching government. Instead, Callahan labels the private donations of generous Americans (totaling over $358 billion in 2014) as "public money," refers to tax exemption and the charitable deduction as "subsidies," and proposes restrictive laws and a greatly expanded role for government - all of which threaten the right of Americans to choose how and where to spend their charitable assets.
Although it is highly unlikely that we will see comprehensive tax reform before the 2016 elections, we are mindful of the need to challenge those whose dangerously flawed ideas may influence members and staff of the House and Senate tax writing committees. Our public policy project, the Alliance for Charitable Reform (ACR), continues to educate lawmakers about such threats and about the critical role of private giving in this country.
We welcome your thoughts and comments about our response to David Callahan, and invite you to contact Joanne or me in that regard. If you are interesting in learning more about our public-policy work, please visit the ACR website and sign up for the ACR newsletter.