The federal government today clamped new restrictions on its annual $130-million charity drive among its employees that critics say will deny any benefits to thousands of groups.
In regulations published by the Office of Personnel Management, the government said proceeds from the annual Combined Federal Campaign can go only to traditional types of charities which serve health and welfare needs and "help lessen the burdens on government."
Barred from participating will be groups that spend more than 15% of their budget on lobbying or lawsuits, a criterion that will affect public advocacy groups and legal defense funds. However, groups can seek exceptions based on special circumstances.
Federal employees, civilian and military, will continue to designate what group receives their contribution, the government said. But they must choose from a list of approved charities.
The change will affect advocacy groups of all political stripes, from the National Abortion Rights Action League to the National Right to Life Committee, and from the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund to the National Right to Work Committee. The government said the rules will be applied "without regard to the viewpoint of any excluded groups or agencies."
But critics contend that argument is disingenuous, saying that far more liberal groups rely on broad-based charitable contributions than do conservative organizations.