CFC Enters Final Stretch Of Giving

Posted December 10, 2004 at 1:02pm

With time quickly winding down in the 2004 Combined Federal Campaign charitable giving drive, and a pending lawsuit against the office running the national campaign, administrators of the national capital area campaign remain confident that they will reach this year’s goal, even though doing so would require them to raise $21 million in 16 days.

“It sounds like a lot, but the next three weeks are the busiest,” D.C. campaign Executive Director Tony DeCristofaro said. “The holiday season is when people are the most generous. The regular media this time of year is covering human-need stories on a regular basis.”

As of Dec. 3, the campaign had about $33 million in pledges, DeCristofaro said.

The 2004 goal of $54 million is 6 percent more than last year’s total of $50.7 million.

The CFC is an annual federal charitable giving drive that allows federal workers to pledge money to charities directly from their paychecks. Workers in the national capital area can choose this year from 3,217 local, national and international charities.

DeCristofaro said he does not believe a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and 12 other organizations against the Office of Personnel Management, which runs the campaign nationally, has affected the amount raised so far.

The lawsuit, filed in November, was sparked by a controversial new rule applied to the campaign this year that requires participating charities to screen their employees against terrorist watch lists. Some confusion occurred over what the new policy required of the charities.

The ACLU argues that terrorist watch lists are notoriously riddled with errors and lead to racial profiling and false accusations.

“The basis of the lawsuit is that OPM was not authorized to make this change in policy and that the change in policy violates peoples’ First Amendment rights,” said ACLU spokeswoman Emily Whitfield.

A memo released recently by OPM attempts to clarify the new policy and explains that it is mandated by an executive order issued following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Whitfield said the clarification will not affect the lawsuit, which aims to change the campaign’s policy.

“It is a very important campaign and we fully support it,” she said. “We hope we can change the policy so people won’t have to write a separate check.”

Since withdrawing, the ACLU has received charitable gifts from people giving independently of the campaign, Whitfield said.

Those people choosing to give outside the campaign are not expected to affect the outcome of the campaign, DeCristofaro said.

“The effect on us of this is not on how much money is being pledged, it’s how the 2005 application process is handled,” he said.

The Justice Department is handling the lawsuit for OPM, but would not comment on the response to the pending litigation. A response to the complaint must be filed by Jan. 18, according to Justice Department Public Affairs Specialist Charles Miller.

The official solicitation period for the national capital area’s campaign began Sept. 1 and was slated to end Wednesday, but an extension granted by OPM will allow the campaign to solicit until Dec. 31.

Currently, the campaign is $3.3 million ahead of the amount raised this time last year, and DeCristofaro said he remains confident.

While he declined to make any predictions, he said if the $3.3 million holds, the campaign has a good chance of reaching the $54 million goal.