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Nonprofit news roundup for Oct. 20, 2008

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Lobbyists use charities to get to lawmakers

Corporations such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin are currying favor in Congress by sponsoring charities that are near and dear to lawmakers’ hearts, The New York Times reported Oct. 18 (see gifts story). During the first six months of 2008, corporations and interest groups gave a total of about $13 million to nonprofits in honor of more than 200 members of the House and Senate. For the first time in 2007, Congress adopted rules requiring corporate lobbyists to disclose their charitable giving in honor of members of Congress.

Bush administration bypasses discrimination laws

In a recent memorandum, the Bush administration announced it can bypass laws that bar the government from giving taxpayer money to religious organizations that only hire staff members who share their faith, The New York Times reported Oct. 17 (see religion story). The memorandum says that even federal programs subject to anti-discrimination laws can give money to groups that use discriminatory hiring practices. The document approved a $1.5 million grant from a Justice Department program to fund staff salaries at World Vision, a nonprofit group that hires only Christians.

New York mayor seeks charities’ support in push for third term

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, is pressing the charities he supports to get behind his bid for a third term in office, The New York Times reported Oct. 17 (see mayor story). As critics voice their opposition to Bloomberg’s proposed easing of term limits, the mayor has asked charities that receive his donations to testify at hearings on his behalf. The City Council is expected to vote as early as next week on legislation that would allow city officials and council members to serve 12 years rather than eight.

Cornell gets $50 million from Indian foundation

Cornell University has received $50 million from the Tata Education and Development Trust, the philanthropic arm of a multi-industry conglomerate in India, The Ithaca Journal reported Oct. 18 (see India story). Two endowments of $25 million each will go toward improving health and agriculture in rural India and attracting top Indian students to the Ithaca, N.Y.-based school.

UT Austin embarks on $3 billion campaign

The University of Texas at Austin has announced a campaign to raise $3 billion in eight years, the most ambitious fundraising drive in the university’s history, The Houston Chronicle reported Oct. 17 (see fundraising story). Though the university has raised $700 million since 2006, administrators expressed concern that donors will be hesitant to give during the down economy.

Bailout plan allows giving from IRAs

As part of the federal government’s rescue plan for the ailing economy, people over age 70 and a half can donate to charity tax-free as much as $100,000 from their individual retirement accounts, says Kelly Greene in response to a question posted in The Wall Street Journal Oct. 18 (see IRA response). The bailout bill has extended the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which allows people to make charitable contributions using their IRA assets, through 2009.

University of Illinois sees jump in donations

Despite concern over the wavering stock market, private giving to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and its foundation rose 12 percent during fiscal 2008, and giving among alumni and friends increased by more than 15 percent, the Associated Press reported Oct. 19 (see campaign story). The university, which is holding its largest fundraising campaign to date, raised nearly $214 million in the fiscal year ended June 30.

In Brief:

* The credit crisis portends not only a short-term drop in charitable giving, but also a completely new system of rules and regulations for philanthropy, says Lucy Bernholz in a blog on The Huffington Post website Oct. 17.

* The University of Rochester has received a pledge of $30 million, the largest gift in its history, from its board chair, WXXI reported Oct. 17.

* As students struggle with greater need during the financial crisis, U.S. colleges and universities are finding it harder to provide aid, The Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 19.

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