The annual charitable fundraising drive among federal employees raised $256.9 million during the fall, a 3 percent increase from the previous year, officials announced.
The national campaign was underway amid a controversy late last year over the Office of Personnel Management's new requirement that participating charities undergo elaborate checks to try to ensure that their employees were not linked to terrorist organizations and that their funds were not being spent to support terrorism.
After the requirement became public, a half-dozen nonprofit groups dropped out of the fundraising drive, charging that the rule was vague and onerous. The American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and 11 other charities filed suit in U.S. District Court, seeking to force OPM to drop the rule.
Much of the ire was directed at the requirement that the charities screen employees using voluminous government lists and certify that they did not "knowingly employ" terrorism suspects. The groups said the lists are riddled with errors and contain many common-sounding names. They said other provisions of the rule were vague and confusing.
This year, OPM proposed rewording the rule.
The revised rule, which would affect charities in the 2006 Combined Federal Campaign, would drop the requirement that nonprofit groups certify that they do not "knowingly employ" anyone on the government terrorist watch lists.
Instead, the proposed rule, published in the Federal Register in March, would require charities to certify that they are aware that a list of countries and individuals subject to sanctions can be found at a Treasury Department Web site. Charities would need to certify that they are in compliance with U.S. laws prohibiting dealings with "countries, entities or individuals" under U.S. sanctions.
Critics of the original rule praised parts of the proposed new rule last week but said other parts are murky.
The proposed rule doesn't make clear whether organizations must check their employees against the terrorist watch lists, Chris Hansen said.
"We think it means we don't have to check lists because we think the existing terrorism laws do not require everyone to check lists every time they hire someone or every time they make an expenditure," Hansen said. OPM, he said, "needs to tell us whether we're right or wrong."
An OPM spokesman said he did not know when a rule would be issued.
The agency "received several comments about the proposed regulations, and we are now analyzing the comments," he said.
The charities and OPM have agreed to postpone action on their lawsuit until the rule is issued, Hansen said.
The national campaign fundraising total combines 314 federal employee fundraising drives across the country. The largest local campaign is the Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital. It announced its results -- a record $55 million -- in February.