Charity, Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act (CARE) of 2003

From: William P. Bernier, CAE, Executive Vice President

The interfraternity community has, for two years, been working to promote federal legislation that would assure that gifts to fraternity foundations for fraternity housing would be fully deductible for income tax purposes. Our progress to date has been phenomenal. Bills were entered this year in both houses of congress. They passed committee votes and were attached to both the House and Senate versions of the Charity, Aid, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act of 2003. More than 90% of both the House and Senate are on record as supporting this legislation. Yet the legislation is in trouble. Why?

The CARE Act contains elements of President Bush’s “faith-based initiative.” A small group of Senators, led by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, are using procedural tricks to block or delay passage. If the bill does not pass this year, we must start from scratch again next year. Last week, Senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican and Representative Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, met with more than 200 charitable, religious, business and community groups who support passage. The fraternity movement (general college fraternities and sororities) were represented through the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC). Senator Santorum and Representative Blunt asked those gathered to pressure Senator Daschle.

Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat and co-sponsor of the CARE Act, has said that there is no reason to hold up the bill since there is really nothing controversial in it. Lieberman has proposed attaching the CARE Act to a larger business tax bill, “because the larger tax bill is a horse that is going across the finish line.” Senator Daschle claims to support the CARE bill, but says that he is unwilling to send it to a House-Senate conference committee because he does not trust Republican-led committees where contentious items are sometimes added to bills in the dead of night. Mr. Daschle wants the House to adopt the Senate version. The big difference is that the Senate version provides $1.4 billion for Social Security Block Grants (SSBG), which fund community outreach programs. The House version does not.

Senator Santorum claims that he has tried to negotiate with Mr. Daschle by offering a compromise that would provide $700 million for SSBG, but has been ignored. He accuses Mr. Daschle of stonewalling to prevent an election-year win for the White House. Your letter to Senator Daschle may be helpful. We are in greatest need of support from members and friends who are constituents of Senator Daschle in South Dakota. Here is a sample of what should be sent.

Example Letter

The Honorable Tom Daschle
509 Hart Office Building
United State Senate
Washington D.C.. 20510

Sent Via Fax to 202-224-6603

Dear Senator Daschle:

Please use your position as Minority Leader of the Senate to push for the immediate final passage of charitable giving legislation.

The Charity, Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment Act of 2003 (CARE Act – S.476) passed the Senate by a vote of 95-5 on April 9, 2003, almost one year ago. The House passed its companion bill - The Charitable Giving Act of 2003 (H.R. 7) - on September 17, by a vote of 408-13. Given the broad bipartisan support of both chambers of Congress, and the pressing and immediate need to encourage more charitable activity in our communities, now is the time to pass a final charitable giving bill.

The CARE Act provides a powerful incentive for increased giving by allowing nearly 90 million Americans who don’t itemize their taxes the opportunity to still deduct a portion of their charitable contributions. The legislation has nearly $2 billion in incentives for food donations from farmers, corporations and restaurants, meaning our nation’s food banks will have almost 900 million more meals to feed the hungry over the next decade. There’s funding for low-income Americans to use matched savings accounts to buy homes, get an education and start small businesses, and $150 million for a Compassion Capital Fund to help faith-based organizations expand their ability to serve.

More than 1,500 charitable organizations nationwide have endorsed this legislation, including organizations where I donate my time, talent and treasure. More than twenty of your colleagues from both sides of the aisle are co-sponsors of this bill.

Senator Daschle, you announced your support for a charitable giving bill when this process first started. Don’t let politics block final passage of a bill that 94% of Congressmen and Senators have voted to support. Please use your outstanding leadership abilities to see that the charitable giving bill becomes law this year. Our charitable organizations, here in South Dakota and nationwide, are counting on you.