Republican critics assumed the role of whistle-blowers Friday, accusing the White House of “bullying” charities.
White House officials hosted two conference calls Friday with more than 250 nonprofit leaders on how to press Congress in supporting tax increases on the wealthy, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported.
Dave Camp (R-Michigan), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member, had this to say about the White House call:
“Today, the White House chose to mislead and scare America’s charitable giving community, using them as pawns in an effort to achieve their tax hike proposal. This is abhorrent, wrong and needs to stop,"
The release went on to liken the nonprofit call to action with former health care proceedings:
"What the White House did today is disturbingly reminiscent of how it conducted itself during congressional consideration of ObamaCare – telling groups that they better back the White House, or else. Bullying isn’t leading. These kind of intimidation tactics are unacceptable, and they need to stop now.”
Nonprofit conference call participants included leaders from the Independent Sector, American Red Cross, United Way Worldwide, Catholic Charities and others who elected not to pass the message about increasing tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent they received on to their constituents, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The Alliance for Charitable Reform, an organization that educates policymakers on the role of charity, stated its opposite in a press release:
“Charities and those who give to charity should not be forced to enter this political wrangling.”
The conference call came on the heels of nonprofits spending Wednesday of last week week lobbying Congress in an effort to fight a potentially greater cap on charitable deductions, which could save the government some $50 billion a year in tax breaks, according to the New York Times.
The White House has long backed reducing charitable-giving deduction limits from 35 percent to 28 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married couples earning more than $250,000
President Obama had issued another warning last Tuesday stating that relying strictly on closing loopholes and decreasing deductions to prevent a fiscal cliff could hurt the middle class and charities that depend on donations, Reuters reported.
"If you eliminated charitable deductions, that means every hospital and university and not-for-profit agency across the country would suddenly find themselves on the verge of collapse," Obama said.
The situation only grows stickier for the nonprofit sector since wealthy donors are looking to make year-end donations and benefit from tax breaks.
To keep deductions intact, some charity leaders support Obama's call for a tax rate hike on the wealthy explains Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
"If nonprofit leaders don't want changes to the charitable deduction, it is imperative that we get behind the president's call for higher tax rates on the wealthy. The majority of nonprofits know this is true, and I urge the hundreds of nonprofit leaders who have traveled to our nation's capital for visits with members of Congress today to clearly advocate for higher tax rates on the wealthy in addition to their advocacy in opposition to any changes to the charitable deduction."
Others in the nonprofit sector say they simply want clarity.
"The President is sending mixed messages to the charitable community," Sue Santa, senior vice president of the Philanthropy Roundtable, said in a release. "On one hand, he wants to limit the charitable deduction. On the other, he wants millionaires to continue to give to charity while also paying higher taxes."