January 13, 2020; CBS Austin
As NPQ has reported over the last decade, workplace giving campaigns have been challenged to maintain their space in the new fundraising environment, losing ground to such mechanisms as donor-advised funds and online platforms like GoFundMe. In this space, disenfranchising a portion of your donor base might be seen as foolhardy.
So it is for the Texas state employees’ annual drive, which will likely eliminate Planned Parenthood as a potential recipient of the drive’s funds as a result of Senate Bill 22, a new state law that disallows state and local governments from doing business with abortion providers or their affiliates.
The Texas State Employee Charitable Campaign has around 1,100 preapproved nonprofit organizations to which it facilitates donations. In 2018, a disproportionately large $180,000 of the total $7.1 million raised was directed to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, with more scheduled for Planned Parenthood in Houston and San Antonio.
Readers may recall what happened when Susan G. Komen made a similar move seven years ago. Since then, its donations base has been on a steep decline from which it has not recovered. In that case, the effect may have been more intense, as the constituency for Komen was clearly likely to share an intense interest in reproductive rights, but we suspect the same dynamic is likely here.
It’s probable the donors who gave to Planned Parenthood also gave to other groups. If history is any indicator, they’re likely to go away angry, meaning the loss to the campaign and the nonprofits it funds could be significant.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, after being asked, has judged in a nonbinding legal opinion that the campaign falls under the purview of the law.
“The Policy Committee’s approval of abortion providers or affiliates as charitable organizations eligible to participate in the Campaign constitutes a taxpayer resource transaction,” Paxton wrote in a signed opinion dated January 2, 2020. The law “thus prohibits the Policy Committee from approving abortion providers or affiliates as eligible charitable organizations for the Campaign.”
Sam Robles of Progress Texas says, “The state is limiting state employees’ First Amendment options in order to align with conservatives’ larger anti-abortion extremist agenda.”
That is clearly the case, but, if it does exclude Planned Parenthood, this is also a blow to the campaign from which it may not recover.—Ruth McCambridge