California About to Invade Charitable Bedrooms


ACRU Staff


June 2, 2008

The California Assembly has already passed, and its Senate is now considering, a “diversity” bill that would require all of its major foundations to report information on the racial and sexual backgrounds of all of their boards and staffs, as well as the boards and staffs of the charities they support. They would also have to report the degree to which they support, or are run by, certain preferred minorities. The mere stating of what the bill does should alarm most that this is a bad idea.

The facts for this story, but not the legal conclusions, come from an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal Online for 30 May, 2008. The article is entitled, “The ‘Diversity’ Threat to California Charity.” The author of the piece, Heather Higgins, is a Board Member of the Philanthropy Roundtable.

As the article recites, a bill “to encourage diversity among non-profits” has already passed the California Assembly and is now before its Senate. The bill would require that “California foundations with $250 million in assets … report the composition by ethnicity and gender orientation of their boards and staffs, the boards and staffs of the charities they support, and the degree to which they are run by or support certain minorities.”

The ACLU is not directly involved in this effort. But, the bill is in line with many ACLU efforts. An interesting point appears aboutt he Greenlining Institute, a prime sponsor of the bill. Greenlining refers to itself as a “racial justice advocacy group.” According to the article, its executive director recently admitted that “most of our money comes from litigation.”

That is a very telling admission. It means that Greenlining, like the ACLU, derives a large part of its funding from taxpayers- you and me through force of court orders. And then it uses that money to lobby the government to tell free citizens how to lead their lives.

According to Greenlining, only 20% of foundation funding from the state’s 50 largest foundations is going to “minority-serving” causes, a fact they find “embarrassingly low.” By targeting the preferred minorities the bill ignores charities that serve everyone, such as hospitals, medical care, homeless shelters, education, substance abuse, and environmental causes. One can make a reasonable guess that neither Asian Americans nor Caucasian males are labeled as minorities in California, though both are, in fact, that.

What would happen if this California passes? For one thing, it would create a bureaucratic nightmare among California foundations and the charities they support. Leaders of all such institutions would have to delve deeply into the private lives of all their staff and board members. Remember that “gender orientation” is one of the required data points.

Greenlining claims that the bill is only intended to “request diversity data.” Anyone who thinks that data won’t be turned into a public relations attack and that the result won’t be sexual and racial quotas might be interested in the purchase of a bridge in Brooklyn. In short, the bill would provide the basis for shakedowns and litigation, founded on the racial and sexual requirements of the bill. Longtime charities that have served Californians well, could find their charitable status under attack.

Worse than the attitude of Greenlining in promoting this bill is the attitude of certain politicians supporting it.. At a recent hearing, some state senators asserted that taxpayers “subsidize” charities and therefore, charitable money is “taxpayer money.” This totally misses the point of charitable giving. The exemption encourages private citizens to give private money to serve public needs, oft-times serving both better and more efficiently than government programs do. Charity may substitute for government money, but it is not money raised from taxpayers. It is not the business of politicians to micromanage the use of charitable gifts. (Mind you, this is not an objection to laws that are common in many states, which require that charities give specified minimums to charitable purposes, rather than just staff and operating expenses.)

California represents more than 10% of the population and economy of the United States. If this bill passes, it would set a terrible example for the rest of the states and the federal government, too. It would certainly cause some foundations to pack their bags and leave California, precisely the opposite result from what any competent public advocate, or competent politician, should seek.

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