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Discussion > Charities : political lobbying/campaigning & the Charity Ltd trick

BBC Radio 4 just had an edition about Charities and lobbying/campaigning.
So I am just sharing the link Moral Maze :Charities what should they be allowed to spend their money on? and do we need to rethink our definition of what is and isn't a charity?

This connects to 2 recent BH posts about FoE
#1 The Ltd corp trick to avoid Charity Commission rules/oversight
#2 Josh Cartoon about FoE tricks

It's a very complex issue and I think the prog only dealt half well with it.

Paraphrase their blurb

Charity in the UK is a £100 billion big business. Often paying fat-cat Exec salaries and using big corp slick PR tricks. Over 165,000 charities
Charities get £13bn/year from national or local government. (em what about EU funds ?)
Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save The Children get much of budget from gov.
And gov money makes up well over a half of the annual income of many well-known charities

The government has just announced that charities which receive state grants will not be allowed to spend any of that tax payers cash on political campaigning.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has described the change as "draconian" and will amount to "gagging" them.

* But charities also get much money from "gift aid" and tax breaks that are part of charitable status.
If public schools can qualify for charitable status, why not campaigning groups like "Liberty"?

- Another negative issue is some charities 'aggressive fund raising tactics' of some organisations, the charity halo has become
- Is it time to accept that they need to apply all the modern commercial tools you'd expect from such a large industry.

- In their rush for influence and impact, have charities lost sight of the personal relationships, responsibilities and trust that lie at the heart of altruism?

- with Michael Portillo (Portillo has the view Charity and Campaigning are 2 separate things so donors get confused, and political views should not be subsidised.)
- Anne McElvoy ("rightish" The Economist commentator) concerned about charities getting themselves a bad name
- Giles Fraser (lefty commentator)
- Matthew Taylor (ex-Labour politician, ex-head of left of centre think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research, son of the sociologist Laurie Taylor, head of RSA since 2006)

Feb 13, 2016 at 6:01 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Overall the Charity people seem to have conspired to say "Charities are being muzzled", "Democracy being closed down". They failed to acknowledge that one type of political view is being subsidized and others not.
But the panel saw thru these dramaqueening claims.

#1 Craig Bennett (Friends of the Earth CEO)
- The panel were totally under-prepared and failed to tackle him on either of the 2 issues that we at BH know about (I have pointed out before that clicking the News button in a Google search shows that the media hardly covered the issues ..only the Times)
- Dramaqueened about a "big campaign against charities" in media and politics which is aimed at shutting down democracy (Projection I think)
- Why didn't they ask him 'if campaigning is OK why does FoE use the Ltd corp trick to escape CharityCommision oversight ?'
- "FoE doesn't get govt subsidy"..(That's deception as it has received huge chunks of EU money, and I think he maybe only talking about FoEuk, I expect other countries govs also donate to FoE national orgs)
- 'Ours in not just opinion, cos we have expertise'
- We are seeing political decisions being made in Whiltehall'..... (Doh that's democracy, you'd rather unelected charities made the decisions ?)

#2 Christopher Snowdon (from Rightish thinktank IEA ..writer of Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why). Spoke very well, defended against the 2 lefties points.
- Said the rule against "State funded lobbying" actually is already been implemented as it's in the grant clause of most contracts and Shelter have agreed to it.
- Said when biz and quangos get gov money ..same should apply
- Large charities have got huge thru gov funding so small charities suffer from big Corporate Charities muscling in
......... and charities stay quiet on some issues for fear of losing govt funding.... (A fair point)

#3 Debra Allcock-Tyler (CEO since 2001 of Directory of Social Change a charity that supports charities)
- Sounded a bit dotty (Portillo well countered her, multiple times)
- "People donate to causes"
- Charities subsidise the taxpayer by doing things with donated funds that the gov should be taking care of (fair point, but by being outside gov they are not accountable to the voters)
- Made the point Charities cannot recover VAT (good point, but do get gift aid)
- (hysterically said) "It is a gag!"

#4 Andy Benson : (Head of campaigning group NCIA ("defending ungoverned space of voluntary action"), who chaired a meeting "Voluntary Groups Against a Conservative Government" (He ran the org for 10 years, but closed it this year as they thought people are now well aware of the problem of little charities being bullied.)
- He made the point that as govt has used charities they have become less radical and he sees that as undemocratic .
(Yes I can see a point a clever gov could get rid of activist trouble by making them dependent on the tax-money teat)

......... And voluntary service charities stay quiet on some issues for fear of losing govt funding.... (A fair point)
questioner pointed out other charities had no problem campaigning against bedroom tax.
- Alledged gov tricked charities, cos when it does it privatisation plans it's sugar spoons charities by giving them a bit of work. (possibly true)
- He clearly repeatedly gave the political view that "austerity is bad"
- Also said big corporate charities like housing associations have become the same as BAD as big businesses
- Ended with a clearly prepared political statement "This is about a SHUTDOWN on criticism, descent and opposition !" (No it just rebalances the field cos the political left have hijacked public money to fund their own political lobbying)

Surely there is a democratic principle of "no taxpayer spending" without accountability ?

- Portillo brought up ANOTHER central issue not mentioned in the prog ..of charities misrepresentating themselves to the general public who donate.
- (He missed the point about clever activists hijacking charities as a political vehicle, from within. the Labour/Green parties don''t have to spend much money on promoting their policies, cos taxpayer funded charities do the PR for them.)

Other recent examples are the poor oversight of 'Kids Company' and Helped the Aged energy plans sales commissions.

Feb 13, 2016 at 6:56 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

FoE guy said "FoE doesn't get govt subsidy"
Their own blog in May 2015 has this hidden near the ottom of the page

In the interests of transparency, the EU funds charities and research across the European Union, and we receive a very small percentage (1%) of our funding from the EU.
Telegraph Dec 2013 European Union funding £90m green lobbying con
The European policy office of the World Wide Fund for Nature, also based in Brussels, has received £7.4 million, while Friends of the Earth Europethe third highest recipient with £6.4 million.

In total, 25 groups have each been given more than €1 million (£850,000) from Life+. EU funding has helped to pay for a video, produced by FoEE, of a green superhero called Energy Savings Man, which lobbied the British and German governments to back an EC energy savings directive, which has since come into force.

How's that compare against his 'not us mate, we don't get govt funds' ?

Mail on Sunday October 2014

We have found that innocuous-sounding bodies such as the Dutch National Postcode Lottery, the American William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Swiss Oak Foundation are channelling tens of millions of pounds each year to climate change lobbyists in Britain, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

They have publicly congratulated themselves on their ability to create green Government policy in the UK – most notably after Ed Miliband steered through aggressive CO2 reduction targets in his 2008 Climate Change Act, and announced there would be no more coal power stations.

Yet the consequences of their continuing success are certain: further eye-watering rises in energy costs for millions of Britons and an increasing risk of blackouts.
Remarkably, green lobby group Friends of the Earth not only conceived the Climate Change Act, but Bryony Worthington, the FoE official who came up with the idea and lobbied MPs to support it, later actually drafted it.

Feb 13, 2016 at 7:44 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Crucial info a Telegraph article that outlines Christopher Snowdon's report on Charity sock puppetry

Blair’s government also changed the rules about political activity in 2002; whereas previously lobbying could only be “incidental or ancillary” to its charitable purpose, new guidelines made this “less cautionary”,

"Tendency of the Labour government to commission like-minded charities ‘to write 'independent' reports that validate other 'independent' reports (similarly paid for by gov)"

Feb 13, 2016 at 8:32 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I'm no longer up to speed with the legal definition of charities (it's a third of a century since I studied it) but I don't believe it's changed much since the Statute of Elizabeth (that's Elizabeth I, by the way). It's out of date, and not fit for purpose. Far too many charities shouldn't, in my opinion, enjoy charitable status (as well as the likes of FoE and Greenpeace, I would include private and public schools, even though "education" was one of the original charitable heads and has a venerable history).

I also think there are too many charities duplicating each other's efforts, and believe it might be a good idea if the Charities Commission had the power (and willpower) to refuse charitable status to wannabe charities whose objects are the same as, or sufficiently similar to, those of existing charities.

I'm not against charity per se, but clearly the situation has got way out of control - there are organisations conducting political activities which many ordinary members of the public would be astonished to learn are enjoying charitable tax breaks in view of their activities; as you say too many charities rely hugely on Government funding (thereby negating their charitable nature, in my opinion); too many high-ups on fat cat salaries; etc etc etc.

Feb 13, 2016 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark Hodgson

I'm not against charities either. They have a long and honourable history going way back into the Bible!
In general, what we these days call "charities" have been set up by groups of like-minded individuals to meet a need which cannot be met by individuals. These needs probably could have been met by governments but at the time weren't seen as the government's business. (Education could be said to be one example.)
Some of them (Education again is an example) eventually did get taken over by government but others continued on the basis that they were better placed than government to do the job but if the government cared to help either by tax banks or funding then they could do a better job still, etc., etc.
Which is where we are today with a lot of charitable organisations.
Where we seem to have gone wrong is that too many of these charities now see their charitable work as secondary. They have moved into the policy arena and instead of just feeding the poor are asking why the poor are hungry.
("When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist." Dom Helder Camara)
Which is fair enough but they have also started to think that because they know about feeding the poor that means they ought to be consulted by government on reducing poverty or finding better ways to feed people or better ways to grow food or better food to grow. And to do all these things they need more money than the (very generous) British public is prepared to give them so they need government money to pay the experts who will tell them what to say to government to persuade them to do all these things that the charity believes it is expert at!
Or in other words they are engaging in politics.
Which is not what they are for.
So I repeat an idea I put forward elsewhere: let them set up a political fund and seek donations for that fund from the public. Their supporters will decide whether they want their donations spent on feeding the poor or lobbying government.
Simple. Or should be.

Feb 13, 2016 at 9:45 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Charitable Uses Act 1601:

An Acte to redresse the Misemployment of Landes Goodes and Stockes of Money heretofore given to Charitable Uses

Whereas Landes Tenementes Rentes Annuities Profittes Hereditamentes, Goodes Chattels Money and Stockes of Money, have bene heretofore given limitted appointed and assigned, as well by the Queenes most excellent Majestie and her moste noble Progenitors, as by sondrie other well disposed persons, some for Releife of aged impotent and poore people, some for Maintenance of sicke and maymed Souldiers and Marriners, Schooles of Learninge, Free Schooles and Schollers in Universities, some for Repaire of Bridges Portes Havens Causwaies Churches Seabankes and Highewaies, some for Educacion and prefermente of Orphans, some for or towardes Reliefe Stocke or Maintenance of Howses of Correccion, some for Mariages of poore Maides, some for Supportacion Ayde and Helpe of younge tradesmen Handicraftesmen and persons decayed, and others for releife or redemption of Prisoners or Captives, and for aide or ease of any poore Inhabitantes concerninge paymente of Fifteenes, setting out of Souldiers and other Taxes; Whiche Landes Tenementes Rents Annuities Profitts Hereditaments Goodes Chattells Money and Stockes of Money nevertheles have not byn imployed accordinge to the charitable intente of the givers and founders thereof, by reason of Fraudes breaches of Truste and Negligence in those that shoulde pay delyver and imploy the same.

It was a problem in Elizabeth I's time too, although I suspect that funds were embezzled for other purposes (but Kids Company seems to fit that bill today).

The current definition can be found here. The guidance notes are useful - particularly this comment:

16. Clause 1(1) establishes the meaning of charity. By specifying that a body or trust is a charity if established for charitable purposes "only", clause 1(1)(a) preserves the current rule to the effect that a body or trust which has non-charitable as well as charitable purposes is not a charity.

I do not think that lobbying government is defined as a charitable purpose - which is why we see the "Ltd." trick. The issue therefore is how to regulate these "Ltd." campaigners. My solution is to make them subject to the same law a political parties, forcing them to register with the Electoral Commission, which would impose reporting requirements on their sources of funding, and restrict their campaigning spend in various ways. There actually already is a category for this, and the list of registered organisations is here. The definition of who needs to register is:

Non-party campaigners are individuals or organisations that campaign in the run-up to elections, but are not standing as political parties or candidates. A non-party campaigner may, for example, be a campaigning organisation, a charity, a faith group, a company or an individual.

Non-party campaigners who spend or plan to spend more than £20,000 in England or £10,000 in any of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland on regulated campaign activity must register with us and follow the rules on campaign spending, donations and reporting. We regulate those rules.

It needs expanding to cover activity outside election windows, and the obligations to report should likewise be expanded to be more in line with requirements on political parties. It should be a requirement that any charity that supports any "Ltd." campaigner should be required to disclose the details whenever it solicits for funds so that charitable donors can make an informed decision.

Feb 13, 2016 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

If lobbying by entities receiving public money really is a problem and this is not, as many might think, just a ploy by the right to reduce the voice of the left and further cement its power, lets ban lobbying by any organization (charity, company or other) that takes public money (government has no money of its own), either through grants, contracts, bail-outs or other means. They should be prevented from lobbying government, supporting political parties or politicians or influencing elections. Any other lobbying that occurs must be in public view, not behind closed doors.

Feb 13, 2016 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

@Raff that was said in the prog by Christopher Snowdon (from Rightish thinktank IEA)
"when biz and quangos get gov money ..same should apply"
... The 2 lefty questioners were astonished at that and had no come back.

But he did differenciate between lobbying with own money OK, and Lobbying using taxpayer funds NOT OK

Feb 13, 2016 at 1:19 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

If it is OK to lobby with private money but we restrict most others then soon we end up with only those with money being heard. Maybe the charity lobbying offsets the private lobbying. Biasing lobbying in one direction doesn't sound like a good idea.

Feb 13, 2016 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Charities aren't democratic..they are just a political vehicle for those who hijack the management
Being in charge of a charity is just like being rich.

Feb 13, 2016 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterstewgreen

From the current definition of cahrities:

(3)In subsection (2)—

(a)in paragraph (c) “religion” includes—

(i)a religion which involves belief in more than one god, and

(ii)a religion which does not involve belief in a god;

So that's Climate Change covered then.

Feb 14, 2016 at 12:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Strawmen : I see some activists dramaqueening like spoilt teenagers, it doesn't do their credibilty much good.

Strawmen #1 : 'If we can't use govt money ten we are being gagged' Duh the whole point is charities are not govt. They use donors money for the cause. They are not being gagged as they can still use their donors money and the 30% gift aid for lobbying.

Strawmen #2 : Only the rich will have a voice not the poor.
- Contradicted by the above 1
- Yes after school age having more money gets you more stuff. Since we live in a capitalist society there is an incentive to be innovative and work harder cos you end up with a bigger advantage.
- So rich have an advantage in getting a voice but the poor still have a voice thru other methods.
Like collective action : Unions often have more resources than small factories.
Religions have immense resources and claim to speak for the poor.
But charities, no it is not a given that charities are good for the poor at all.
- Green lobbying by charities is a reason why the poor are more energy poor as green policies put up prices
Many charities seem to exist for the benefit of their rich founders. Like horse charities which give their founders and families jobs paid from donation money.

Feb 14, 2016 at 4:43 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

The problem with an organisation, charity or business, which receives both government (public taxation) money and donations from the public is that there is no way to differentiate between the sources. In fact there is no way of knowing that, if the there was no taxpayer money, the organisation would have the resources to lobby anyone.
Simple solution, receive taxpayer money then no lobbying of either national or local politicians.

Feb 14, 2016 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Lobbying is such a grey area. Arguably if I pick up a phone to my local councillor and suggest a course of action on a matter of interest to me then I am lobbying. I am also exercising a democratic right unless you care to argue that democracy starts and ends at the ballot box.
I have no problem with any organisation (a) giving advice to the government when asked; (b) passing on to the relevant department the benefits of its experience in its field of expertise. I do have problems with any organisation attempting to influence government policy unless (in the case of charities) the policy they are proposing has the support of those who voluntarily fund the charity. The only reliable way to do this (in my view) is to divorce the campaign funds from those used to run the charity and carry out the charity's declared objectives. By that means it is possible to guarantee that only members' contributions will be used for political campaigning and any government grant must be used for the charity's primary purposes.
Under the present regime, there is no way to prevent the small minority of people that run the charity from acting purely in their own interests and using taxpayers' money to further those interests. That has to be wrong, surely?

Feb 14, 2016 at 10:34 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Jackson
As someone who contacts MPs and councillors as an individual fairly frequently then I have no problem with that side of things. Mailing campaigns orchestrated by the likes of Greenpeace are something all together different though.

No problem if the government or a council asks a number of organisations their opinion on things, preferably both sides if there is a dispute. Again if the government is proposing a change in policy which may have a detrimental effect on something or some group a discussion initiated by politicians is perfectly acceptable, it should be carried out in the open.

I am hopeful that there will be much more clarity on charity finances which will make it easier to spot dubious practices. I still think for the most devious it will be possible to lobby governments in a way not possible with receiving public money for other purposes. Any public funding should preclude any lobbying by that organisation, after all they don't have to take the money from the taxpayer and if there is enough support for lobbying then they will be able to raise the funds.

Feb 14, 2016 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

@sandy makes the point "if there is enough support for lobbying then charities will be able to raise the funds."
..bur don't mistake that "support" for democracy
...That support might just come from vested business interests we suspect the RSPB is influenced from relationships it has with Green Energy businesses

If a charity gets $1m a year to run a children's home
..and the government is thinking of replacing homes with fostering.
Then the charity might lobby against the measure, but that $1m must be clearly ring fenced for running the home.
Now that it is a dilemma when the lobbying project involves the same office and same personnel.
...Its complex, the policing and self policing needs to start with the obvious large scale lobbying, smaller scale might be too fuzzy.

Feb 15, 2016 at 4:23 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Your example is quite a good one.
A charity gets £1m pa to carry out a government contract. The government chooses to end the contract. Tough!
Presumably that charity has not been set up specifically to operate that contract. So let it get on with its charitable work. The government's decision is of no relevance to the ongoing work of that charity. Normal rules re redundancy payments, etc will apply. If the charity cannot survive without that contract then it would be hard to justify its existence in the first place.
If the termination of that contract is due to a change in government policy then the charity is at liberty to argue that the change is not a good idea, quoting its own expertise and providing evidence to support that conclusion provided it is not using money that was intended for carrying out the contract.
If additional expenditure is needed (to commission further research or to pay for expert advice, for example) then the charity must either draw on its donations or appeal to its donors or the public for funds for that purpose.
What we do not want the charity doing is going cap-in-hand to the government and saying, "your plans are rubbish; give us some money so we can prove it to you!"
You what?!

Feb 15, 2016 at 9:23 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Jackson
Agree with all that.

It is a complex problem, but the proposed change is definitely a step in the right direction. The vested business interests, and the mega-wealthy supporting their own agendas, thing works both ways, and MRDA (which should be the sceptics watchword) in both cases. Vocal and sustained pressure by a minority never was democracy, using taxpayer money to support that minority is very far from democracy so let's be thankful for these small steps in the right direction.

Feb 15, 2016 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

As I think I said earlier, I hear the squealing of pigs being dragged away from their trough!
When you have charities with "Chief Executives" being paid six-figure salaries, for all the world as if they were heading multi-national companies, it's time to start asking some very serious questions.
Especially when in the real world they might just about have the expertise necessary to supervise the typing pool. Or run a third-rate B&B.

Feb 15, 2016 at 10:18 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I can compartmentalise : #1 The govs anti-lobbying us with our own money rule : Yep that's a start, but there are many other faults.
#2 Mis-represntation to the public : eg the RSPB heads pretending to care about birds, when their main cause is lefty dogmatism.

#3 The undemocracy
@MJ says I'm not against charities " ..Well actuallly I am, cos I believe that about the only thing that should be done by charities is keep and eye on govt and lobby it. Everything else should be brought inside govt Why? cos the govt is elected . Important things shouldn't be run on the whims of some unelected people but rather be inside the elected govt.

Why charities should lobby ..cos they are messing around looking for penny's to spend on something, whereas if the cause is really worthy we should be using the $billions the govt has its it's disposal.

What is it with all these charity shops ard volunteers ? is that an efficient use of resources?
- Mostly I am opposed to use of volunteers , as it's a false economy ..If someone needs help then don't sent them a half hearted volunteer, rather make the volunteer a professional and pay them.
Really I'd rather not give to charity, but rather pay more tax..yes the gov isn't screws up, but that's no excuse for walking away, rather the gov should be held accountable.

In The UK the RSPCA prosecutes animal cruelty it's functions should be brought within govt.

Feb 15, 2016 at 2:28 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen