Senators Weigh Worth of Tax Break for Charitable Giving
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
October 21, 2
Members of the Senate Finance Committee weighed the pros and cons of the current tax deduction allowed for charitable giving in a hearing on Tuesday. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Finance Committee, is holding a series of hearings that explore ways to overhaul the tax code, and this particular provision has attracted renewed attention in Washington’s ongoing deficit reduction and “jobs” debates.
Noting a Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that the current charitable deduction will preclude the federal government from collecting approximately $230 billion in taxes for tax years 2010 to 2014, some are advocating for adjustments to this policy, specifically reducing the value of tax deductions for high-income Americans. However, Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide, and Elder Dallin Oaks, a high-level Mormon official, testified adamantly that limiting the current tax deduction would be a mistake and could cost billions for charities. Gallagher stated, “I can tell you from my experience, large donors are very sensitive to the tax code.” 
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the committee’s top Republican, strongly opposed changing the current tax deduction:
As state and local governments grapple with budget deficits and revenue shortfalls, Americans in crisis are turning for help in ever greater numbers to churches, charities, shelters, and other social welfare groups. Charitable donations are the lifeblood of charities and the last thing Congress should do is interrupt the blood supply.
Senator Hatch declared the proposals on the table to be “concocted by those who, hungry for more taxpayer dollars to finance reckless government spending, are now casting their sights on the already-depleted resources of charities and churches.”
 • Read testimony from this Senate Finance Committee Hearing.
 [Bernie Becker, “Nonprofit leaders: Don’t roll back tax incentives for charitable giving,” The Hill, “Finance and Economy Blog,” October 18, 2011, 7:39 p.m.]
Washington Whispers
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

HHS Defunds Catholic Anti-Trafficking Program
The Office of Refugee Resettlement in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has decided not to continue funding a program coordinated by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to serve human trafficking victims. The USCCB had overseen the aid program since 2006. While HHS did not elaborate on its decision to change course, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, Director of Media Relations for USCCB, used an editorial to question whether USCCB’s religious positions on abortion and family planning came into play. Health and Human Services reportedly noted that it would prefer grantees willing to provide referrals for a “full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”
• See NRB’s letter to the White House regarding Religious Freedom for Faith-Based Federal Grantees.
• Read USCCB Media Relations Director Mary Ann Walsh’s Op-Ed, “The ABC Factor at Health and Human Services: Anybody But Catholics” (The Huffington Post).
• Click here to view the Department of Health and Human Services’ Anti-Trafficking in Persons Website.
[Kathleen Miller, “Catholic Group Dropped From U.S. Aid Contract Linked to Abortion,” Bloomberg, October 10, 2011, 12:00 a.m.]
Net Neutrality Goes to Court
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCCs) controversial “net neutrality” rules are headed to trial in the federal DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The DC Circuit has shown disfavor for net neutrality in the past, specifically during an FCC sanctioning dispute with Comcast. 

The FCC’s 3-2 partisan vote to pass net neutrality rules allowed the federal government to regulate the Internet for the first time in history. NRB is wary of these rules, as it desires Christian content to be accessible on the Internet unfettered by any government or corporate religious discrimination.

• Read the NRB Board of Directors 2011 Resolution on Regulation of the Internet.
• See NRB’s Public Filing with the FCC, “Comments” for Preserving the Open Internet.

[Amy Schatz, “Net Neutrality Case Heads to D.C. Circuit Court,” The Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2011, 5:45 p.m.]

The Inside Story: Key Government Issues for Christian Communicators
Washington Whispers
>> HHS Defunds Catholic Anti-Trafficking Program
>> Net Neutrality Goes to Court
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