April 2010; Youth Today (Subscription Only) | The charges and countercharges about the Boys & Girls Clubs of America have been covered in the press and in Nonprofit Quarterly’s Newswire, but this analysis by Nancy Lewis of Youth Today is well worth the read.

The issue isn’t simply the million-dollar compensation package of the BGCA CEO, which apparently has been well known for some time. The inquiry launched by Republican Senators Tom Coburn, Jon Kyl, John Cornyn, and Chuck Grassley looks at earmarks and line-item appropriations for the organization that go back to 1997, prompted by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who ranks the BGCA as one of his favorite groups.

On January 28th, Leahy asked his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee if any had qualms about authorizing over $425 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs over the next 5 years. Coburn responded, saying he backed the BGCA mission, but wondered whether the more than $550 million it had already received to open new club sites in distressed areas had worked (he also questioned CEO Spillett’s salary plus some $4 million in travel by the BGCA national staff last year).

Part of the problem here is in determining what money supports what.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a bit like the United Way of America, in that the local clubs are generally separately incorporated, not necessarily controlled by the national organization—and that frustrates Coburn and his allies who cannot figure out why they give earmarks to the national BGCA only to be hit up for earmarks and funding for the local clubs.

Perhaps this brouhaha will all be chalked up to divided Congress problem, Republicans opposing whatever Democrats support. But we think there’s more—a new willingness by members of Congress of both parties to peer under earmarks and ask whether what they purchased was worth it.—Rick Cohen