Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What's Grassley up to?

WASHINGTON - A former White House official says 'widespread congressional apathy and a desire for political gamesmanship' doomed the president's tax incentives for charitable giving.

In testimony prepared for a hearing on charities, David Kuo, former deputy director at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, also criticized Republican efforts to repeal the estate tax because of its potential drain on charitable giving.
Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, called Kuo to testify Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee as part of an investigation into abuses at tax-exempt charitable organizations. Grassley has said he wants to pass a bill clamping down on the problems this spring.

Since when does Grassley care about this stuff? I wonder who that bill's going to target. And why call a former administration aide who has been publicly critical of the president's efforts in this arena?

For that matter, why is Kuo now giving it to Congress? In his published comments late last year, he pinned the blame on both the administration and Congress. So has he changed his focus, or does the other side of his critique not come through in the article?

The whole thing is a puzzle.

But here's what he's got to say about the estate tax and charitable giving:
Kuo also said estimates show that a full repeal of the estate tax could cost the charitable sector more than $10 billion each year. The estate tax leads wealthy individuals to contribute to charities because the donations reduce their estate tax liability.

"That is a lot of money," he said.

The Congressional Budget Office last year reported that repealing the estate tax could cause a 6 percent to 12 percent drop in charitable contributions and bequests.

Could it be more obvious that these folks don't give a crap about charity? If they did, they wouldn't seek tax cuts that would kick charitable organizations in the nuts. This is another tax cut for the wealthy, plain and simple.

At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Maren Chaloupka said...

One of the charities that Grassley has implicated is a land trust created by Wyoming trial lawyer Gerry Spence. Mr. Spence, along with another attorney, placed a large and beautiful piece of land into a charitable trust. On a small portion of that land is Trial Lawyers College, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to training better lawyers for people - - public defenders and lawyers who represent the poor, the forgotten and the damned. The College is a nonprofit organization, with tuition kept low so that its programs are affordable; in fact, the College typically operates at a loss because the tuition is so low.

In the week before Sen. Grassley suddenly expressed interest in Mr. Spence's land trust and other charities, Mr. Spence had given a blistering speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The content of his speech clarified how individual rights are under attack; how tort reform is a hoax designed to help corporate America and the insurance trust at the expense of the individual; and how Congress' assault on the judiciary will hurt citizens. Perhaps it is a coincidence that Sen. Grassley (a tort reform advocate) became interested in Mr. Spence's trust so quickly after that speech, but I doubt it.

By the way, yes, Mr. Spence does have a lot of money. And he probably did get a tax advantage for his donation. But I have seen rich people do much, much worse with their assets. He could have sold that land to a corporation so that McDonald's could stick the Golden Arches in the middle of the beautiful Wind River. But instead he chose to preserve the beauty of the land and train better lawyers to help the powerless.


Post a Comment

<< Home