Senate Bill 40 is the tool Oregon Attorney General John Kroger needs to make life harder for charities that spend little on charity.
Critics want to kill the bill because it's imperfect.
Of course, imperfection has never stopped the Oregon Legislature before, but the bill should pass to help Oregonians know what they give gets to people who need it.
The bill has a simple principle: Charities should spend at least 30 percent of the money raised on helping people. If a charity doesn't, the charity can still raise money in Oregon, but Kroger's office can yank the charity's tax-deductible status in Oregon. There are penalties in the bill if a charity isn't open about its tax-deductible status.
Some charities do only spend pennies on the dollar on good works. The Wishing Well Foundation of Louisiana is dedicated to fulfilling the fondest wishes of terminally ill children. Its average annual expenditures are about $1.3 million. Of that only about 12 percent goes to charitable causes.
The bill has restrictions, making it more a scalpel than a sledgehammer. Charities get to appeal. Mitigating circumstances would be considered, such as fundraising drives. There are no additional reporting requirements for charities. And more.
The bill does have flaws. High administrative and fundraising costs do not equal fraud or misuse. Expenditures alone also tell donors nothing about the relative effectiveness of an organization.
But nobody has come forward with an example of a worthy charity that would be harmed by the 30 percent threshold.
The bill zipped through the Oregon Senate. Nobody testified against it. The Nonprofit Association of Oregon was quick to support it.
In the Oregon House, the bill went to the Revenue Committee and State Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, the co-chair of the committee, is unhappy with it because of its flaws. The Democratic co-chair, Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, told The Oregonian he supports the bill but won't overrule Berger.
That's a death sentence for the bill. Unless, you do something.
This is the phone number for Berger's office in Salem - 503-986-1420.
Call her office. Encourage her to support the bill.
- Wescom News Service (The Bend Bulletin)