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House limits fundraising by 527s

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Here are the week’s top news stories reported elsewhere:

* With a 218 to 209 vote virtually along party lines, the U.S. House passed a bill that lifts party spending limits and restricts the amount of money certain nonprofits, known as “527” committees, can raise and contribute to political campaigns, The Washington Post reported April 6. Both moves are expected to benefit Republicans, officials say.

* International Red Cross officials, dispatched last fall to assist their American counterparts in providing Katrina relief, filed reports in September criticizing the American response, saying the effort was poorly planned, relied on inexperienced management and failed to meet victims’ needs, The New York Times reported April 4. Internal investigations have already led to the dismissal of three volunteers, and the FBI has begun an investigation of possible criminal misconduct, The New York Times reported March 31.

* Foundation assets exceeded $500 billion for the first time last year, the Foundation Center says, but it predicts total foundation giving will decrease in the coming year due to concern about the national deficit, high oil prices, inflation and the war in Iraq, The New York Times reported April 4. Almost six in 10 foundations say they will increase giving this year, mainly by small amounts, and three in 10, a higher percentage than usual, plan to cut donations, the center says.

* The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $75 million grant to PATH, a Seattle-based organization that aims to speed development of pneumonia vaccines, The Seattle Times reported April 3. Gates and PATH hope to provide a vaccine for under $5 in poor countries, where every year one million children die from the illness.

* Amid criticism of the way it handled Hurricane Katrina response, the Red Cross says it will overhaul disaster-relief efforts by sharing control of donations with religious groups in some underserved areas, standardizing financial policy and hiring more investigators to review whistleblower complaints, The Boston Globe reported April 4.

* Festus & Helen Stacy Foundation, a Florida-based Christian-outreach charity, is accusing TH Lee Putnam Ventures and an entity of Merrill Lynch & Co. of having inflated the value of companies they financed through a $1.1 billion fund launched in 2000, The Wall Street Journal reported April 4. The Stacy Foundation says it would not have continued to donate to Merrill Lynch had it had evidence of what it believes was the diminishing value of TH Lee Putnam’s portfolio, officials say.

* Britons donate 230 pounds, or $400, on average to charity per year, contributions that total up to 13,000 pounds, or $22,600, during a lifetime, The Scottsman reported March 29.

* Massachusetts-based entrepreneur Tom Bird donated his domain name, farm.com, to the Boston Foundation, which will sell it for a profit, The Boston Globe reported March 30. The donation brings a new twist to the current trend of donating domain names to nonprofits.

* The Red Cross’s international federation appealed for $77 million in aid to help improve health care and rebuild homes and schools in northern Pakistan after an earthquake in October killed 73,000 people and made 3.5 million homeless, Reuters reported March 29.

* More than three in four UK charities saw their assets grow in 2005 and one in three are confident they will see investment returns of at least 8 percent over the next three to five years, according to JP Morgan’s 2005 survey, ThirdSector reported March 29.

* When using direct mail for fundraising, UK charities experience among the highest response rates of all business sectors, says a survey by the Direct Mail Information Service, UK Fundraising reported March 29. The average response rate was 13 percent, the survey says.

— Compiled by Laura Newman

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