U.S. Federal Issues: March 2004 Public Policy Update
In a move that reignites momentum for the Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act, Sens. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) have introduced the legislation as an amendment to a jobs bill currently being considered by the Senate.
The two Senators filed the CARE Act as an amendment to the Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act, a bill that is expected to pass through the Senate fairly quickly. The legislative language included in the amendment is identical to the version of the CARE Act that was passed the Senate last year by a vote of 95-5.
While the amendment was filed on March 3, it will not receive consideration until mid-to-late March because of other issues regarding the bill and a short congressional recess.
Because of the delay, AFP did not sent out a legislative alert to members, but will do so as soon as the Senate is prepared to consider the amendment. AFP is working with both Senators and other organizations that want to see the CARE Act passed this year.
Because of the impending elections, it is critical that the legislation be approved early in the year. Otherwise, as political rhetoric heats up over the summer and into the fall, it will be increasingly difficult for Congress to pass the legislation.
The amendment as filed contains funding for the Social Services Block Grant program, an issue that has caused the CARE Act some problems in the past. However, given the urgency of the jobs bill and the tremendous support the CARE Act received in the first Senate vote, it now has a good chance of passage provided Senators hear from the constituents.
There has been little action on the House regarding H.R. 7, the companion bill to the CARE Act. However, if the CARE Act is attached to the jobs bill in the Senate, it will probably receive strong consideration in the House. AFP remains in close contact with the offices of Reps. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Harold Ford (D-TN) and will be working with them should Senate action prove favorable.
The CARE Act includes a number of charitable giving tax incentives, most notably the IRA rollover provision, which would allow donors to transfer money from their retirement accounts to charities and avoid tax penalties. The bill also contains a limited non-itemizer deduction, increased incentives for corporate giving, and a series of enhanced deductions for gifts of food inventory, scientific and technical equipment and other items.
Click here for more about the CARE Act and its companion bill in the House (H.R. 7, the Charitable Giving Act).
For Government Relations Chairs: Let members know that an important vote is coming up for the CARE Act in the Senate. Remind them that when they receive an alert that they should respond as soon as they can. Chairs should follow up on alerts AFP International Headquarters (IHQ) sends out regarding the CARE Act. IHQ will try to alert government relations chairs of upcoming alerts as time permits.
New IRS Document on Charity Lobbying
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued Revenue Ruling 2004-6, which clarifies that charities do not have to stop lobbying government officials simply because those officials are up for re-election. However, charities must ensure that their lobbying efforts do not imply either support or opposition for a particular candidate.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, social welfare organizations, unions and trade associations generally are permitted to engage in advocacy or lobbying related to their exempt purposes. The Ruling contains examples of what is and is not permissible under the Internal Revenue Code.
The Ruling is available online in PDF format.
For Government Relations Chairs & All Members: With the continuing saga of the CARE Act and AFP's new Chapter Government Relations Manual near completion, International Headquarters strongly recommends that GR Chairs and all members get a copy of this document. Because AFP will probably be distributing legislative alerts later in the year, it is critical that members understand they can continue to lobby on behalf of their organizations and on behalf of AFP. Chairs are urged to remind chapter members at an upcoming meeting.
Do Not Call List
As was reported in the Feb. 23 edition of eWire, the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call List won a major battle in court regarding its constitutionality.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected a challenge to the registry that it was constitutional because it exempted charities and political organizations from having to comply with the list's requirements. This case, which consolidated four other cases, had been seen as a primary battle over the list and a barometer for how other courts might decide the issue. Several different state courts are still wrestling with the issue, but this case is expected to have some influence over those upcoming decisions.
To date, more than 57 million individuals have registered with the FTC and its National Do-Not-Call Registry. The FTC also has reported that compliance with the list's requirements has been good, with only 150,000 complaints in 2003.
AFP will continue to monitor other cases involving the do-not-call list and any potential impact they may have on charitable fundraising.
For more information, see Reminder: A Fundraiser's Duties Under the FTC Do-Not-Call List
For Government Relations Chairs: Chairs might do well to click on the link above and inform chapter members of what is required of them under the FTC's new Telemarketing Sales Rule. The Rule implements both the Do Not Call List and several other requirements. While charities and their fundraisers are exempt from the Do Not Call List, they do have to comply with the other requirements. However, fundraisers who comply with AFP's Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice are, in all probability, already in compliance. ONE FINAL NOTE: Charities do have to respond to specific request by people not to call them. So, if an individual contacted by a charity says he or she never wants to be contacted by the charity again, the charity (and its fundraiser) must comply.