Archive for the ‘NGOs’ Category

Why shouldn’t we expect nonprofits to ‘push politics?’

October 9th, 2008

Posted by: admin

In this week’s Denver Post, there is a series of articles criticizing the Colorado Democracy Alliance. The articles insinuate impropriety among a loose collection of left-leaning nonprofits. The reporter, Jessica Fender, argues in her article “Progressive gang uses nonprofits to push politics”:

Colorado’s best-known progressive donors are advancing their political and ideological agenda through a web of advocacy and nonprofit groups, many of which claim nonpartisanship and receive tax exemptions.

The 37 organizations that collectively receive millions at the direction of the Colorado Democracy Alliance (CoDA) serve unique purposes in the progressive power brokers’ toolbox.

They build voting blocs, provide policy research, shape media communications, train progressive leaders or encourage civic engagement, according to the alliance’s organizing documents.

She continues in a second article:

The model, which appears to legally skirt federal regulations that prevent coordination between candidate campaigns and issue groups, has proved so successful at turning a red state blue that it could cause nationwide change as 18 other states prepare to adopt it.

While Ms. Fender might not like the outcome, what is wrong with a nonprofit engaging in politics?

Yes, there are a number of laws that restrict nonprofit behavior in politics. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit — the most restrictive tax designation – cannot support specific candidates for office, contribute to political campaigns, or tell its members how to vote.

However, 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in issue advocacy, sponsor talk by candidates, and attempt to persuade candidates to adopt the organization’s position. Certainly, these are political activities!

Questions for Senator Inhofe

September 25th, 2008

Posted by: admin

Today, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) released a report entitled Political Activity of Environmental Groups and Their Supporting Foundations. This document is an expanded version of a document published in 2004. The report’s general argument is that environmental groups are stealth advocates for the Democratic Party despite that environmental organizations claim to serve public interests:

Environmental activism has become a multibillion dollar industry in the U.S. Campaigns to save the whales or stop mining beg average Americans for their support through donation of their hard earned dollars. These environmental campaigns also receive millions from charitable foundations such as the PEW Foundation, Turner Foundation, and Heinz Foundation. But what most don’t know when they donate to a cause to “save the rainforest” or “save the polar bear” is that their money could end up being used for partisan activities that are only tangentially related, if related at all, to the cause for which they are intended…

…Because of the complicated web of 501(c), 527, and PAC organizations, it is clear that individuals who donate to a 501(c)(3) organization intending to contribute to the cause of the organization, have no clear mechanism for verifying that their donation was used for the cause. Unsuspectingly, these donors may be contributing to partisan activities when they originally intended their donation to aide an environmental cause. Additionally, there is not sufficient oversight over these organization to police their political and campaign activities.

Are contributors to environmental groups really so naïve that they do not understand the political implications of the groups they donate to? I doubt it.


A Call to Reinvigorate Environmentalism…

September 23rd, 2008

Posted by: admin

I recently came across an interesting article by Jeffrey St.Clair published in February 2007. St.Clair is a progressive journalist/activist and is an outspoken critic of the effectiveness of environmental NGOs:

A kind of political narcolepsy has settled over the American environmental movement. Call it eco-ennui. You may know the feeling: restlessness, lack of direction, evaporating budgets, diminished expectations, a simmering discontent. The affliction appears acute, possibly systemic…

…this much is clear: the vigor of the environmental movement has been dissipated, drained by the enforced congeniality displayed in our disputes with Clinton and Bush, the Democrats in congress, and the grim, green-suited legions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Despite the rampages of the Bush administration, the big green groups can’t even rouse themselves into much more than the most reflexive kind of hysteria, fundraising letters printed in bold type…


Will environmentalists miss George Bush?

September 13th, 2008

Posted by: admin

No doubt, environmentalists are counting down the days until President Bush leaves office. However, is this parting bittersweet? Consider the following figure on the number of Americans that claim to belong to an environmental organization.

According to this dataset, the number of American’s that belong to an environmental organization correlates with presidential party affiliation; claimed membership is approximately 50% greater during a Republican presidency.


Conservation Nonprofit Revenue

July 3rd, 2008

Posted by: admin

This past week, I aggregated IRS tax data for the top 50 revenue producing conservation nonprofit organizations. I documented over $22.5 billion dollars in combined revenue between 1998 and 2005. The combined assets of these organizations were approximately $8 billion in 2005. To help understand where revenue is flowing, I used a simple classification system. The following pie chart breaks down revenue by sector for the eight year period:



How much influence should a ‘mega-foundation’ have?

June 26th, 2008

Posted by: admin

Tomorrow is Bill Gates’ last official day at Microsoft. His energy will now be reoriented toward philanthropic efforts at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation’s assets currently exceed $37 billion. In 2006, Warren Buffet pledged roughly $31 billion in Berkshire Hathaway stock — at rate of approximately $1.5 billion per year — to the Gates Foundation. The exact dollar value of his pledged donation is impossible to calculate, since it is directly tied to the performance of his stock. Regardless, the current assets and pledged donations to the Gates Foundation exceed $60 billion.