Legislative decisions often get delayed in a presidential-election year, but that makes 2012 a good time to contact members of Congress and their aides, says Jerry McCoy, a Washington lawyer who advises charities.
“This is a quiet time, and members are less distracted,” says Mr. McCoy. He says that point was brought home to him by two Congressional staff members who last week held an informal, off-the-record gathering with Mr. McCoy and members of the Association of Small Foundations.
One piece of legislation they discussed was a measure to expand the deduction that partnerships and other privately held businesses can get for contributing supplies such as blankets or emergency-relief products. (For more details, see a background report he wrote.)
Andrew Schulz, vice president for government relations at the Council on Foundations, agrees that this year is an opportune time for charities to press their issues with elected officials on Capitol Hill. ”There’s lots of opportunity to interact with lawmakers and staff,” Mr. Schulz says, adding that politicians use an election year “to step back” and delve into complicated issues such as long-term tax reform.
Mr. Schulz says that he’s stepping up efforts to speak with lawmakers about several tax proposals, such as simplifying an excise tax on private foundations and extending a measure that enabled people to donate their individual retirement accounts to charity tax-free.
Mr. Schulz is also hoping that other charities will join his organization in lobbying against President Obama’s proposal to limit the charitable deduction that the wealthiest taxpayers are allowed to take.
“Foundations and nonprofits need to be more engaged in policy discussions,” Mr. Schulz says.
And the quiet time on Capitol Hill may be just the moment to do that.
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