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The good people at Too Much Online - a newsletter put out by the group Inequality.org have an interesting and provocative idea that would seem guaranteed to improve the image of  America’s nonprofit community (which has been suffering from depressed contributions of late) and help combat the nation’s runaway inequality: cap nonprofit CEO salaries.

“Jack Gerard, the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, pulled down $13.3 million in compensation last year. Yet his Institute operates as a ‘nonprofit’ — and reaps a variety of tax benefits from that status. In effect, average Americans are subsidizing this lobbying giant for the fossil fuels industry. Back in 1998, a member of Congress from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, introduced legislation to cap the salary that nonprofit executives could grab at no more than the salaries of U.S. cabinet secretaries, currently just under $200,000. That legislation never moved. But economist Dean Baker recently resurrected the notion of limiting the executive pay nonprofits could dish out and still qualify for nonprofit status. That limit could be tied to the ratio between a nonprofit’s CEO and typical worker pay. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act requires for-profit corporations to disclose this ratio. Menendez introduced this disclosure mandate provision.”

Sounds like a good idea to us. As economist Dean Baker notes in the column cited above (which discusses the idea of capping the pay of university presidents):

“The universities will also complain that they cannot get qualified people for $400,000 a year. This one should invite a healthy dose of ridicule. If we can get qualified people to run the Defense Department and Department of Health and Human Services for half this amount, perhaps their school is not the sort of institution that deserves taxpayer support if it can’t find anyone willing to make the sacrifice of running the place for twice the pay of a cabinet secretary.

Free market economics is so much fun!”

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Not that anyone expects it to tamp down the out-of-control paranoia on the right wing, but new documents released by the I.R.S. offer strong confirmation that the supposed conspiracy to target conservative nonprofits was, in fact, nonexistent. As the New York Times reports this morning:

“The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.

The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny. Instead, the documents say, officials were trying to use “key word” shortcuts to find overtly political organizations — both liberal and conservative — that were after tax favors by saying they were social welfare organizations.”

 

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The controversial nonprofit management practices of State Representative Stephen LaRoque (as well as his responses to a Policy Watch investigation) have caught the eye of the national publication, Nonprofit Quarterly.

This is from a column posted online this morning by the group’s national correspondent, Rick Cohen:

“Somehow, LaRoque’s answers do not generate the impression that he is exactly on top of the latest thinking on good nonprofit management when it comes to conflicts of interest, self-dealing, transparency or financial accountability. One would also expect the USDA to get on the stick and start overseeing the $7.5 million it gave LaRoque through the Intermediary Relending Program and the $582,000 from the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program. And one would also expect the person responsible for charity oversight in the North Carolina Attorney General’s office to find out whether LaRoque’s serial self-dealing transactions and his conflicts of interest cross the line.”

You can read Cohen’s entire piece by clicking here.