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The Nonprofit President

By Paul Clolery - February 3, 2016

This issue of The NonProfit Times started hitting the postal stream just as the good people of Iowa were caucusing and the outcome was still in doubt. Eyes are trained on New Hampshire on Feb. 9 and then South Carolina on Feb. 27 for those primaries. Anyone who believes we’ll have an indicator as to how the presidential nominating process will turn out from those three exercises in democracy hasn’t been watching closely enough.

One or two of the Republicans running for president surely will be out of the race after South Carolina. You can be assured that at least Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. John Kasich and Gov. Chris Christie will still be on the stump since a couple of them are actually running for vice president. The same can be said for Sec. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and, probably, Gov. Martin O’Malley.

It will be the usual rhetoric about guns, taxes, international affairs and healthcare until at least Super Tuesday on March 1 when 12 states will hold full primaries, two states will hold GOP-only events and American Samoa will go to the polls. When those numbers are in it will be time for the tax-exempt sector to get its figurative hands dirty.

It seems each candidate panders to one lobby or another, often sucking up to several special interests with checkbooks no matter how small of a constituency. The charitable sector never gets its due, even though it is the backbone of the healthcare system about which they always seem to be screaming. The tax-exempt sector delivers the services seniors and veterans need and trains displaced workers for the next generation of jobs. The tax-exempt sector employs 20 percent of the workforce in some states – and that includes government.

The nonprofit world is jilted in election after election. There is never a clear vision other than vague references to the tax code and platitudes regarding national service. It is time that the sector makes the presidential candidates stand up and declare specifics regarding their view of the sector, tax proposals that will impact revenue, donor-advised funds and government contracting with charitable organizations.

The candidates should be invited (see strong-armed) to share their views and be questioned by sector leaders. The event would be live streamed so that there could be no allegations of video editing. The four logical organizations with the muscle to pull this off are the Aspen Institute, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation or the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis. The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University could also pull it off but there is no doubt the subject of endowments will be addressed and at more than $37 billion under management, Harvard might be perceived as having a bias.

Walter Isaacson at the Aspen Institute, Stephen Heintz of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation and Amir Pasic of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy need to have a conference call. They need to hatch a plan where the candidates make clear in a very public forum their views and ideas with regard to the charitable sector.

The candidates need to showcase their plans on repatriating the nearly $1 trillion businesses have in off-shore accounts to avoid tax instead of pulling the rug from under charities and their abilities to deliver services. NPT

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