Nonprofit news roundup for July 16, 2008

Vision insurer asks for restoration of tax exemption

The largest U.S. eye-care insurance provider, VSP Vision Care, plans to challenge the IRS’s 2003 revocation of its tax-exempt status in the Supreme Court, The New York Times reported July 16 (see VSP Vision Care story). The proposed filing highlights a debate in the nonprofit arena, especially among healthcare providers, over what activities deserve tax exemption.

McCune Foundation extends suspension of grants

The McCune Foundation of Pittsburgh is continuing its suspension of new grants through September in response to poor performance of some of its key investments, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported July 16 (see McCune Foundation story). The foundation, which is believed to have lost $167.7 million with the plummeting of National City Corp. stock, will not accept any unsolicited grant proposals through Sept. 30.

Charitable tax scam highlights donor abuses

A recent criminal case involving wealthy donors, religious groups and secret kickbacks of donations provides an object lesson in how not to give to charity, said Tom Herman in a column at The Wall Street Journal July 16 (see charitable tax scam story). Brooklyn rabbi Moshe E. Zigelman and Tel Aviv banker Joseph Roth are accused of soliciting donations for orthodox Jewish groups by promising to secretly refund up to 95 percent of the contributions, while the donors deducts the full amount on their tax returns.

In Brief:

* Two foundations supporting syringomyelia research are locked in a lawsuit over a donor database allegedly stolen by the younger organization, The Longview News-Journal reported July 12.

* Low-income tenants of the California Hotel in Oakland are in danger of eviction by the nonprofit that runs the building, which has received millions of dollars in city support, The Oakland Tribune reported July 15.

* England’s new model of urban education, dubbed city academies, have confounded skeptics by transforming opportunity and attainment levels for inner-city students in three years, but the schools still struggle to achieve true competition and independence from local authorities, The Times of London said in an editorial July 16.

* Strachan Donnelly, Chicago-based philosopher and conservation philanthropist, died of stomach cancer at 66, The Chicago Tribune reported July 16.

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