Sarah Ford | April 21, 2014

Controversial CFC Regs Approved by OPM; Both Parties Protest

Source: NonProfit Quarterly

After the reports on this year’s campaign, with donations plummeting a record 19 percent, it was only a matter of time before Congress got involved to question exactly what might be going on with the Office of Personnel Management’s oversight of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) and with OPM’s proposed regulations to make things better.

Last week, in a very rare demonstration of bipartisan action, especially one involving Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the two—along with Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), and David Reichert (R-WA)—wrote to the Office of Management and Budget, which now has to approve the OPM rules, suggesting that parts of OPM’s proposed regulations could actually make the CFC worse. It might be hard to imagine that the CFC might get worse, or to believe that Issa and Cummings, last seen in a very publiccontretemps over Lois Lerner, could be brought into partnership, but that is the skill of this OPM.

“Charities and watchdog groups agree that the charity application fees may disproportionately affect smaller charities and make it more difficult for them to participate in the CFC,” the legislators wrote on April 17th. “As a result, although the rule was intended to increase donor participation, it could have the opposite effect.” A key issue regarding donor participation is the proposed requirement that all CFC donations be pledged online; about 10 percent of CFC donations in 2012, for example, were made by cash, check, or money order.

Asking for OMB oversight and intervention suggests that the legislators don’t harbor a lot of confidence in the current leadership of OPM. That hasn’t deterred OPM, which says it is proceeding with the publication of its final regulations that would purportedly “streamline campaign operations to make the program more effective and cost-efficient,” in the press release words of OPM director Katherine Archuleta.

A moment of irony popped out of an Archuleta blog posting. “We understand that some groups have expressed apprehension over these changes,” she wrote. “We take these concerns seriously and remain fully committed to working closely with charities and key stakeholders as we implement the final rule.”

Some groups? Unless we’ve missed something, we have seen reams of criticism of the proposed regs from CFC experts and CFC participating charities. Even the United Way, as unlikely to rock political boats of any nonprofit, has bemoaned OPM’s new CFC regulations. Does anyone but OPM like the proposed fee structure? Does anyone but OPM like eliminating donations that aren’t made online? Does anyone like the plans for the increasing centralization of CFC campaigns? By OPM’s count, an amazing 84 percent of the comments it received on the draft regulations were in opposition, but that obviously wasn’t enough to get it to pull the regs for a major overhaul.

If you unpack this story, there are several distressing elements:

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