The Combined Federal Campaign, the nation's largest "I-gave-at-the-office" charity solicitation, was criticized before a House subcommittee yesterday for not allowing new agencies -- particularly minority-sponsored ones -- to share its annual $80 million pot.
Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calf.), the leadoff witness at the first of four days of hearings on the campaign, said black charities are "consistently denied" inclusion in the campaign. The fund drive, which collects charitable contributions from 2.8 million federal workers, last year raised $9 million in the Washington area, or about 45 percent of the total local United Way collections.
Dixon accused the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), successor to the Civil Service Commission, of promulgating policies "in a manner which not only excludes black and minority charitable organizations, but also incourages harassment of those black groups which seek to participate" in the drive among federal workers, 20 percent of whom are members of a minority.
In the Washington area, a United Black Fund is part of the United Way, but the only black organization that gets money directly from the Combined Federal Campaign, Dixon said, is the National Association for Sickle Cell Disease.
The National Black United Fund, an umbrella organization of black charities that, unlike the local United Black Fund, does not cooperate with local United Ways, has filed suit in u.s. court seeking to be included in the Combined Federal Campaign nationwide.
Under the combined campaign, federal employees may designate which of a list of charities in their home towns get the money they want deducted from their pay checks.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), who chairs the House Civil Service Subcommittee, said she convened the hearings to look into charges that the combined campaign now operates "solely for the benefit of participating charities." She said critics have accused it of "becoming less controlled by and run for the benefit of federal employes."
Schroeder said she also is "concerned that there are other public charities which emplyees would like to contribute to through the use of payroll deduction."
Alan K. Campbell, director of OPM, defended the combined campaign, but said he was worried that the timing of the hearings, which continue today and again next thursday and friday, might have "an impact" on the current fund-raising campaign.
Campbell said the combined campaign is "looking at the need to bring in some of the increasing number and types of organizations" that now are excluded. He warned that dropping all existing standrads for participation could open the flood gates to up to 70,000 tax exempt groups.
Campaign recipients now must be national organizations in the health and welfare fields whose fund raising and administrative costs total no more than 25 percent of their receipts.
Walter Bremond, exectuive director of the National Black United Fund, said the national-scope requirement blocks minority charities that tend to concentrate in certain cities.