Nonprofit Newswire | An Oversight or Simply No Oversight?

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May 25, 2010; Source: MSNBC.com | It’s either a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand does or just another example of a dysfunctional federal government. MSNBC.com reports that two charities that previously earned a tongue lashing from Congress for spending more money on overhead than the veterans they are supposed to help are themselves—because of lax oversight—on the receiving end of a federal program that helps direct employee donations to “worthwhile” causes.

Help Hospitalized Veterans of Winchester, Calif., and the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes of Ossining, N.Y., were called on the carpet by Congress two years ago for only spending about a quarter of the money they collected on behalf of veterans. Despite that poor record, both groups are listed as charities federal employees might consider donating to as part of a federal workplace program called the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).

In those earlier Congressional hearings, it was reported that the two charities raised $168 million but spent 75 percent of that amount on telemarketers, direct mail and overhead costs, including $1.5 million in salaries for the groups’ founder, Roger Chapin, and his wife, Elizabeth. As this case shows, it’s not hard to get on the CFC list and even harder to get kicked off, if at all. In fact, according to MSNBC.com, the program’s manager, the Office of Personnel Management, says “that it tries to admit as many charities as possible to the campaign so donors have more choice in selecting the organizations they want to help.”

On hearing that these two charities are still in the CFC campaign, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) who chaired the House committee’s investigation two years ago, said in a statement: “Our 2008 hearing showed Mr. Chapin’s charities spend most of the dollars they received on overhead and salaries. Only a small fraction went to help veterans. OPM needs to investigate how these dubious organizations ended up in the Combined Federal Campaign and what can be done to warn potential contributors.” Seems like a reasonable request. Any bets?—Bruce Trachtenberg

  • JulieBock

    Knowing how hard it was to get on the CFC list–we were not allowed on our first try–and how much work it takes to generate donations through the CFC charity fairs, I’m greatly concerned that Congress is unaware of how this system works and what new restrictions they may place on non-profits to be accepted. The ‘little guys’ can barely compete now.