Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guest Post “Partisan Political Activity” : CCHD California Style

“Partisan Political Activity”
HOW Strictly D0
We Define It?
by William Snear

While doing research for a ZOGS article on ACORN. l became aware of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development`s operational design. Most of the approximately $9 million it collects every 
year is dispensed to community organizations.

 Not community organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, but community organizations like ACORN. CCHD gave over $7 million to ACORN organizations before declaring it ìneligble for in 2008.
I have continued to be concerned that in the parishes I attend, there is no straightforward disclosure on Collection Sunday of CCHD`S modus operandi. So most of the congregation thinks that
CCHD is a conventional Catholic charity.

My concern recently spiked when I accidentally discovered the role that PICO California played in the campaign to pass California's Proposition 30 which raised the top state income tax rate on high earners to 12.3 percent. 

PICO California is a member of the PICO National Network, one of the largest networks of community organizations. The California unit comprises 19 faith-based affiliates.

ln the 2011-2012 grant year, CCHD gave 115,470,130 in grants to 12 of those 19 organizations. The affiliate in my diocese, San Bernardino's Inland Congregations United Change (ICUC) received $50.000.

I was surprised to learn that PICO California was teamed up with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). the successor group to ACORN, in a massive effort
to pass Proposition 30. 

Even more surprising PICO Califomìa. which depends on offerings from good hearted worshipers. had contributed $259,000 to the campaign for Proposition 30.

Naturally. l wondered if any of that money was contributed to PICO California by lCUC. SO. I called Verne Schweiger. the staffer at the Diocese of San Bernardino's Office of Social Concerns
who manages CCHD matters and asked him to investigate. 

When we spoke again. he declined to disclose whether ICUC had contributed to the Proposition 30 campaign, but he did tell me that any such contributions would be a matter of public record.

l said that it would be unethical for the CCHD to collect funds under the guise of helping the poor if some of that money is going to political efforts. particularly something like Proposition 30.

He replied that there was no problem. because lCUC was not involved in partisan political activity. which would disqualify them from CCHD funding. Further his review of the ICUC audit had shown
that the $50.000 grant was spent tirely for the purpose described in its grant application` and ICUC does not support any initiative contrary to Catholic teaching.

After some intensive inquiry. I located the pertinent public records. PICO California established its own Proposition 30 campaign committee. ICUC did not contribute to the $259.90() that PICO California contributed. Worse`ICUC made an individual contribution of $54.000 to the PICO California Committee for Proposition 30 - $4,000 more than the grant it received from CCHD. The Orange County Congregation Community Organization contributed $90,000... $50,000 more than its CCHD grant.

Total 2012 contributions to the committee were $671,516. In addition to PICO Califomia's $259,000, 11 of the19 affiliated community organizations contributed $357,492 (which includes$206,992 from 5 of the 12 groups that received recent CCHD grants). The balance of $55,124 was contributed by others.

For many. the argument that campaigning for Proposition 30 did not constìtute partisan political activity is a hair-splìtting hedge. lt's true that it involved a ballot measure, not only sponsored
candidates, but Proposition 30 was Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown`s initiative. and support and opposition were more clearly divided along party lines than for most ballot measures.

The elephant in the grant office is why Catholics never should have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations that had hundreds of thousands of dollars available for Proposition 30: Catholic schools would have been better recipients.

It is the undeniable right of these groups and their supporters to contribute and campaign. though perhaps not at the same time they are receiving CCHD money. But it is certainly the right of people in the pews to know that their sacrificial giving supported an organization that spent almost $0.7 mil-
lion campaigning against the preference that many of the givers expressed on their own ballots. 

Honesty remains the best policy even in church.

Bill Snear is a dentist who lives in California. 
Contact him at billsnaer@verizon.net,)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative article VOCAL ! But (for context) I think you should put the name of the author at the beginning of the article rather that the end. Not a big deal but it would help in giving it perspective.Thanks again for your fine work.

VOCAL said...

I changed it up. Thanks it probably was confusing.