HOW YOU DO -- or don't -- give money to charities is your private business, but many of us have certain strong opinions about which agencies are most deserving and which have more to do with political and legislative objectives than with direct health and welfare care for people in need. And when it comes to the annual one-fund campaigns -- the local United Way and, in government, the giant Combined Federal Campaign -- the decisions on what groups to include becomes even more touchy. Where do you draw any line?
President Reagan has just redrawn one -- ordering that the Combined Federal Campaign be limited in the future to voluntary organizations directly involved in health and welfare activities. It is a sensible and important decision for the local health and welfare agencies, even though it is drawing sharp criticism from a broad range of groups that you may know and love, or dislike intensely, that now find themselves off the one-fund recipient list.
It all came to a head last year, when a court order permitted the National Organization for Women Legal Defense Fund to participate in this year's CFC drive. That opened the door to all sorts of organizations -- from the National Right to Life to Planned Parenthood to the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation -- to get in on the campaign, payroll deductions and all. This then sparked boycotts by various unions, protests from across the spectrum and -- here's the worst part -- less money for the local health and welfare agencies that benefit from the United Way and CFC campaigns.
In response to a request by the United Way of America, federal employee organizations and labor unions, President Reagan has ordered expressly excluded from the CFC "any organization that seeks to influence elections or public policy determinations through political activity or advocacy, lobbying or litigation on behalf of parties other than itself," according to Donald Devine, director of the Office of Personnel Management. As Mr. Devine notes, federal workers "remain absolutely free, of course, to contribute to such organizations if they wish, but the taxpayers will not be asked to provide the fund-raising channel."
Fair enough. The government, through the CFC, should not be a collection agent for clearly political groups. That kind of "charity" begins at home, or someplace else.