Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Charitable Hypocrisy

I like charity.  You like charity.  Liberals like charity because it helps assuage their heavy consciences.  Conservatives like charity because it shows people will contribute to the betterment of society without being forced to do so by government.

It makes sense, then, that the tax code reflects this inter-political-species hand holding.  Many non-profit organizations are tax-exempt, in an effort to provide incentive for people to donate.  (In fact, I can think of one such tax-exempt nonprofit… ahem…  that provides, a safe, cozy, and warm home for your hard earned dollar.)

In the Wisconsin State Legislature, the powers that be go all out in getting people to donate to a select few of these nonprofits.  Each year, they conduct the “Partners in Giving” campaign, with each employee receiving a book containing a list of charities seeking donations.  According to the guide book, the Secretary of the Department of Administration (a.k.a., the governor’s right hand man) “gives final authorization to all participating umbrellas and charities.”

When looking through the eligible charities, one cannot help but notice that the book contains a laundry list of liberal causes – many of which who turn right around and lobby the State Legislature to pass their pet bills, and some of which actually spend money during campaigns to support and oppose candidates.  For instance, state employees can give to:

  • Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin
  • 1000 Friends of Wisconsin
  • ACLU of Wisconsin
  • Citizen Action of Wisconsin
  • Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups
  • Fair Wisconsin
  • League of Women Voters
  • The Progressive Magazine
  • Sierra Club, John Muir Chapter
  • Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
  • PETA
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America

All of these groups are liberal, most of them advocate for specific legislation, and many of them try to alter the outcomes of elections.  (Many of them, such as the Wisconsin Democracy campaign, have both 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 status – if you’re a (c)3, you are not permitted to advocate for candidates or elections.  If you’re a (c)4, you are permitted to speak out on legislation, but contributions to you are not tax deductible.  If you’re BOTH, then it muddies the picture quite a bit.)

(See the complete list of charities here – the only one I saw that could reasonably be considered “conservative” would be Right to Life.)

Of course, the fact that these organizations are seeking donors isn’t at all controversial.  People can give as much money as they want to whatever ideological group they want.  But consider the fact that each of these groups goes out of their way to advocate for higher taxes on the Wisconsin public, yet they each seem more than happy to benefit from the tax breaks they get by having nonprofit status.  They think high taxes are a wonderful thing – until it’s time to bankroll their own organizations.

Take, for example, the buffoonery that occurs at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a lefty front group that criticizes 3rd party organizations that advocate for legislation, while their Executive Director, Mike McCabe, travels the state advocating for a $15.2 billion tax increase to fund a single payer health plan.  McCabe is more than willing to deprive the government funds in order to bait people into giving him money, but thinks we should all pay MORE in taxes to fund his prized legislative agenda.

In fact, the best thing these liberal groups can do to help their own cause is to forgo their own tax exemptions. Take, for, example, the League of Women Voters, who are spending all their time advocating for an expensive “public option” for health care on the federal level.  Here’s a portion of their official position on “tax structure:”

The League: supports income as the major tax base for federal revenues; believes that the federal income tax should be broad-based with minimal tax preferences and a progressive rate structure;

See there?  They’re against tax preferences… unless those preferences benefit their ability to lobby for a deficit-busting health care bill.

For the record (in case you’re at home scribbling all of this into a note pad), my position isn’t that these groups shouldn’t be given tax exempt status.  (Although the interplay between (c)3 and (c)4 status should be examined more closely, as it’s clear some groups take advantage of this distinction.)  Taxes should be lower for everyone, nonprofits included.

However, it says a lot about these groups that they essentially admit the benefit to their organizations by making money tax free; then they turn around and advocate higher taxes for other businesses seeking the same relief.

Finally, it should be noted that 95% of the charities on the state’s list seem to be worthwhile – so feel free to make a contribution here.

2 Comments

  1. A little puzzled. If the governor’s right hand man decides who is on the list, did the Doyle administration purge the list of all of the right-wing groups Jim Klauser presumably would have put on the list?

    Or didn’t they ask?

    Seems a research organization like yours could find that answer. Who was on the list in 2001?

  2. Actually, if you follow the link in your post to the website and then click a couple more times, you will find that it is not the DOA secretary who really chooses the organizations. To qualify, they must be a member of one of these umbrella groups:

    Access to Community Services
    America’s Charities
    Black United Fund of Wisconsin
    Community Health Charities of Wisconsin
    Community Shares of Wisconsin
    EarthShare
    Global Impact
    Hunger Relief Fund of Wisconsin (administered by Hunger Task Force, Inc.)
    Independent Charities of America
    Neighbor To Nation
    United Way of Dane County
    Wisconsin Environmental Education Foundation

    That’s a slightly different story.

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