Nonprofit Newswire | A Critic Challenges BP’s Charitable Course

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August 31, 2010; Source: First Things | With an editorial board that tilts a bit toward the right with the likes of Midge Decter, Glenn Loury, and Robby George, First Things is a journal that “advance(s) a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.” The author of this examination of BP’s recent charitable giving behavior comes from the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy, questioning why BP is running money through state governments rather than private charities.

The author, Rob Bluey, compares the $52 million BP is sending to four state governments for behavioral health support and outreach programs to the $1.1 million it has given to Catholic Charities in New Orleans (though Louisiana Govenor Bobby Jindal says he will send $6.6 million of the BP funding to Catholic Charities and other nonprofits). Bluey takes note of an $11.5 million proposal submitted to BP by 27 nonprofits this past June which BP has not responded to or commented on.

He is concerned about BP’s reliance on government, because, he asserts as a fact, “private charities have a history of providing superior services to government,” because “they are closer to them and more personally engaged with them than a government agency can ever be.”

Bluey suggests, charities, “Driven by deep convictions and compassion can provide loving forms of assistance and care that government programs cannot offer . . . [and] often . . . for less money.” Bluey’s critique is a bit on the ideological side, citing a study that says that FDR’s New Deal programs caused a 30 percent drop in church-based charity between 1933 and 1939.

Perhaps he might have questioned what programs were funded by the New Deal to help the poor and how much they did that private charity, church-based and other, couldn’t do in the midst of the Great Depression. It is entirely worthwhile to ask what governments are doing with the money BP is providing them, but in many cases, the BP dollars going to government and the BP dollars going to charity are not fungible, they don’t support the same things, and in the end they might not be either-or, but both-and funding propositions.—Rick Cohen