Chilling debate

Regulators want to muzzle charities’ criticism of Bush, Congress.

By Todd Cohen

[04.07.04] — Some Republicans in high places seem to believe charities should be seen, not heard.

In a move that could silence charities that question the Bush administration or Congress, the Republican National Committee is pushing the Federal Election Commission to turn charities that speak out on policy into political committees.

That would bar them from raising and spending charitable dollars, a prospect that could keep them from trying to shape social policy.

To fix and change what is wrong in society, charities need to speak freely about policies that have a huge impact on them and people they serve.

Many charities already are cowed by government, and fear that speaking out could cost them funding.

Charities should stop groveling and get mad about government policies that put and keep millions of Americans on society’s margins, while enriching wealthy citizens and corporations.

Democracy works best when fueled by competing ideas about the role government should play.

Silencing charities will replace the marketplace of ideas with a closed government shop that cannot bear ideas other than its own.

To tell the Federal Election Commission what you think, send email by April 9 to, and include your name, street address and email address.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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