Storms Brewing on Legislative Front
Such an added burden will sink tens of thousands of our smaller, yet highly valuable, organizations.
We don’t need more regulation. We need more enforcement of existing laws.
Living up to bad rap? Hardly.
Closely tied to the whole question of government regulation is the general inability or unwillingness of government to take direct action against charity crime.
In nearly every case of charitable abuse that I’ve read about, existing criminal fraud and theft statutes were adequate for effective prosecution of self-dealing, abuse and misrepresentation. But police and prosecutors are extremely reluctant to investigate nonprofit organizations and their leaders, citing a lack of resources, more important cases and the inherent difficulties of pursuing such cases to successful prosecutions.
So registration, rules, regulations and fees are seen as good alternatives. The possible benefits of such increased federal oversight are far outweighed by the added costs, especially when there is a general reluctance to pursue criminal cases.
The perception of Grassley, and many others who favor tighter federal regulation of the nonprofit sector, is that America’s charitable organizations are rife with misconduct, corruption and ineffectiveness. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Of course, there are some organizations that raise money with fraudulent intent and others that are ineffective, sloppy and downright irritating in their approach. There are organizations that are poorly managed. There are some that could be wiser in their use of donor funds. But overall, America’s charities are effective, vibrant and vital players in our nation’s daily life, and Americans agree wholeheartedly — they gave an estimated $241 billion to charitable causes in 2003.
One recent study indicated that 89 percent of American households engage in charitable giving, the overwhelming majority through the mail, with $15, $20, $50 and $100 contributions. Nearly one-half of the adult population volunteers time each year.