July 12, 2014

Federal

SCOTUS to Rule on Future of Public Sector Unions

UnionIt has been a very consequential run of decisions by the Supreme Court. This week, expect the court to make a momentous statement about the future of public sector unions.

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Time for an Independent Review to Fix the IRS

IRSThe news that the IRS rejected the 501(c)(4) application of a liberal-leaning group in Arkansas is more evidence that the IRS was examining more than just Tea Party organizations during the days of the Lois Lerner scandal. Nonetheless, the recent performance of the IRS on a number of issues, particularly the lost Lerner emails, suggests that it is time to take this brouhaha out of the hands of an overly politicized Congress and give it to an independent counsel, not just to figure out who might have been culpable for doing things wrong, but to resurrect the Service as a vital federal agency that Americans should be able to rely on and trust.

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The Pentagon’s Retrograde View of Nonprofits and Civil Society

Anti-WarThe Pentagon is supporting research on the causes of and solutions to domestic unrest; it views social protest—which nonprofits see as essential to healthy civil society—as destabilizing.

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Confidential Nonprofit Info Passed by IRS to FBI in 2010

DocsThe IRS scandal investigations continue. Newly released emails document that the IRS sent confidential taxpayer information to the FBI for possible prosecution of 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofits. Was it a criminal act, or was it another accidental disclosure by the IRS?

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Eight Sobering Thoughts for Social Impact Bond Supporters

8Among some promoters of social impact bonds, one might find a tendency toward irrational exuberance. They’ll slip into language that suggests the market discipline purportedly inserted into social programming by private capital is much more broadly applicable to a range of social problems than experience so far bears out. We have some enthusiasm-tempering considerations that SIB advocates and critics might reflect upon.

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Is the 1023-EZ a Step Backward for Regulators and Nonprofits?

NewsThe IRS’s proposed short form for tax-exemption as a charity shrinks a 22-page Form 1023 to a three-page Form 1023-EZ. Easier to fill out and approve, but is requiring no documentation from new charities a wise move? Some advocates think not.

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Many Red States Are Largest Recipients of Federal Assistance

StatesA new study shows how significantly the incomes of residents in many states, particularly “red states,” depend on federal government transfers.

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As Obama Focuses on Black Men and Boys, What About Black Women?

AfricanProminent black men in the U.S. are concerned that President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative excludes black women and girls.

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New Attack on Planned Parenthood Appears Anemic, but Who Knows?

 

PPAnother attack on Planned Parenthood, straight from the recycle bin.

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The Continuing Importance of Whistleblowers: The VA Controversy and More

WHistleIf it weren’t for whistleblowers in government and in business, major entities would become complacent and smug. Whistleblowers make public agencies like the Veterans Affairs department at the federal level, the office of Governor Susan Martinez at the state level, and many corporate entities do what they might not otherwise—reexamine their operations for shortcomings, failures, and illegalities.

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Infrastructure for Marijuana Businesses Still Blocked by Feds’ Ambiguity

COAs marijuana is legalized either for medical purposes or for recreational use, depending on the state, an infrastructure must be built around it. Some of that infrastructure is limited by its continued categorization as an illegal drug on the federal level.

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Disband and Replace the Veterans Affairs Department?

NewsWill nonprofits fall for the siren call of carving up the Veterans Affairs Department and turning its functions over to nonprofit service deliverers? That’s the suggestion of some small government conservatives, but not Arizona senator John McCain.

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Social Impact Bonds Not Well Received at Senate Budget Hearing

?Although Senator Mark Warner suggested that government was pretty incapable of understanding, finding, and funding programs that work, his solution—that the market discipline of private investors was needed—didn’t get borne out in a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee last week. The result was a trenchant critique of social impact bond and pay-for-success financing schemes.

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Fighting Payday Lenders State by State and at the Federal Level

MoneyThe failure of legislation in Louisiana to regulate payday loans reflects just how hard it is for nonprofits to face off against the well-financed payday-lending industry, whose generosity in campaign contributions can sway the perspectives of state legislators. The answer may be in the strategy supported by the Consumer Federation of America: Get the Consumer Financial Protection Board to enact federal regulations that would cover all of the states.

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Property Tax Exemptions for Missouri’s Nonprofit Luxury Retirement Communities

NewsSome luxury senior-citizen communities charge entry fees of several hundred thousand dollars, plus monthly or annual costs that are well beyond anyone’s definition of affordable. Tax assessors continue to pursue them for full property tax payments, but in Missouri, one state legislator has proposed to give them a measure of property tax immunity.

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Successes of Nonprofit CO-OP Insurance Confounds Critics

NewsContrary to pundits, naysayers, and the press, the nonprofit health insurance cooperatives created under the Affordable Care Act have done reasonably well in some states and show indications that they could do even better in year two. It’s time for the nonprofit sector’s leadership to take notice and stand up for the co-ops against troglodyte opponents in Congress.

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Combined Federal Campaign Pledges Dramatically Plummet by 19% in 2013

CFCNPQ warned that we might see a precipitous drop in pledges to the 2013 Combined Federal Campaign, but that drop is even more dramatic than we imagined, and it is definitely not an anomaly.

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Science and Philanthropy: Nice, but Insufficient

ScienceA New York Times writer follows up on a report on huge investments in scientific research by big donors, but says that government spending is necessary to bring them to scale.

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One Observer Thinks Cities with Strong Mayors Outwork DC

MeninoOnly seven percent of Americans think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. President Obama’s popularity is at a historic low. The Atlantic’s James Fallows thinks a better model of political leadership might be found in cities with strong mayors.

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The Take on “My Brother’s Keeper”

ObamaWhen President Obama gathered a diverse crowd of people to witness his announcement of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, he even corralled Rev. Al Sharpton and Bill O’Reilly to participate—together—as though they both supported the president’s plans for helping black men and black boys. In the weeks since the announcement, My Brother’s Keeper has become something of a Rorschach test; everyone sees parts of they like. But the new initiative has its share of critics as well.

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Indian Diplomat vs. Housekeeper Case Dismissed by Federal Court

NewsDevyani Khobragade wasn’t covered by diplomatic immunity when she allegedly committed visa fraud to bring a woman to the U.S. to be her housekeeper, but she got it after the fact, and the legal charges against her were tossed out in federal court. NPQ follows up its coverage from January, and sees that the principles of women’s rights and treatment of domestic help at stake remain unresolved.

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Faith-based Org Deemed Insufficiently Charitable, Denied Tax Exemption

GrandThe City of Grand Rapids ruled that the Acton Institute, a federally recognized nonprofit, didn’t qualify as a “nonprofit educational institution”—after they completed a multimillion-dollar capital investment in the city.

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CIA Accused of Spying on Senate Committee as Committee Scrutinizes CIA

CIAThis ought to set off our democracy alarms: Is the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA?

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Supreme Court Upholds Free Speech in Rejecting “Boobie Bracelet” Case

GoldThe case of the “boobie bracelets” has now been rejected by the Supreme Court, which upheld lower court rulings that kids have the right to wear the bracelets in school as an expression of free speech.

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Foundation and Nonprofit Secrets in President Obama’ FY2015 Proposal

ObamaNonprofits gathered for Philanthropy Week in Washington primarily to take on tiny issues such as floors and caps on charitable deductions as contained in the President’s FY 2015 Budget and in Congressman Dave Camp’s comprehensive tax reform framework. But the president’s budget contains much more in its 1,656 pages with specific reference to nonprofits and foundations.

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President Obama’s FY2015 Budget: Live Wire or DOA?

NewsIt was a little late in getting released, but the FY2015 budget proposal of the Obama administration went live yesterday. If it were to be adopted as-is, it would be of huge interest to nonprofits and foundations, but it may have a political half-life of mere seconds.

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Let Us Now Praise Famous Nonprofit and Public Consumer Advocates

ConsumerThe contours of nonprofit advocacy have been changing in recent years. This issue of the Cohen Report talks about three current issues in consumer advocacy—consumer advocates helping make government programs work, helping create new and crucially important regulatory and oversight functions, and the problem of phony consumer advocates created and funded by corporate interests.

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Which Lawmakers Donated Their Pay During the Shutdown, and to Where?

ShutWhen the shutdown loomed and it looked as though federal workers were going to go without pay, some legislators volunteered to donate their own pay in solidarity. Did they? And where to?

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27 Indicators of the Real State of the Union

SOTURolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson has identified 27 indicators of the true state of the union that would have been valuable pieces of context had President Obama referenced them.

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Legal Aid Takes a Step up in the 2014 Appropriations Deal

NewsFor the first time in a long time, the budget of the federal Legal Services Corporation is seeing a small but noteworthy uptick. However, this increase in FY2014 is still millions of dollars short of restoring the LSC budget to where it was before its multi-year nosedive.

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