Nov. 10, 2005 – In a victory for nonprofit organizations, the Bush administration this week quietly withdrew a nearly two-year-old regulation requiring all charities participating in a government-backed federal employee donations program to screen employees and donation recipients for possible terrorist ties.
The rules do, however, still encourage groups to monitor themselves and includes a mandatory oath certifying that "the organizationâ€¦ is in compliance with all statutes, executive orders and regulations restricting or prohibiting US citizens" from doing business with people or groups on US watch lists.
Without so much as a press release, on Monday the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published the new regulations for the charity program, the Combined Federal Campaign, in the Federal Register.
The CFC is a program set up to facilitate charitable donations by federal employees. In 2003, the last year for which numbers are available, the Campaign reported taking in $248 million in charitable pledges. The money is distributed to partner nonprofits for their charitable work.
Under OPM regulations drafted in 2004, groups participating in the CFC were required to screen all employees and expenses against government lists of terror groups. The American Civil Liberties Union and twelve other groups sued the Office of Personnel Management in November over the regulations, claiming they were both unclear and burdensome, according to court papers.
The recent rule change was first proposed in March, in response to challenges from groups concerned that the existing rules carried unfair restrictions. According to the ACLU, the OPM requirement caused several charitable organizations to lose CFC money over the last two years.
In a statement yesterday, ACLU President Anthony Romero said pressure from the groups was directly responsible for the OPM decision.
"This is a major victory for nonprofit organizations that refused to be subjected to vague government requirements forcing us to become law enforcement officers for the federal government," said Romero. "We feel vindicated. List checking is not and has not been required by law."
The new rules are similar to the Treasury Departmentâ€™s voluntary compliance rules, The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted yesterday.
According to OMB Watch, a congressional watchdog organization that is part of the lawsuit against the old regulations, the District Court will resume the ACLU case at the beginning of December. The ACLU indicated that the groups may withdraw the suit.