What we heard in DC

April 26, 2016 at 10:53 am Leave a comment

headshot of claudiaAs you might imagine, our recent trip to Washington, D.C., for Foundations on the Hill was abuzz with talk about presidential candidates – with not a lot of mention about our own governor – and their prospects in upcoming primaries. Panelists and speakers in various venues were happy to predict what might happen at conventions for both parties and what that might mean for the future.

And it wasn’t all focused on the race for the presidency: added to the conversation mix was the fact that 34 senators are up for election, including several very competitive races like the Portman-Strickland matchup here in Ohio. There was quite an attitude of “inside the beltway” nearly-obsessive focus on the November election, with both parties vying for control of the White House and the Senate.

Portman POH

Our first meeting in Washington for Foundations on the Hill was with Sen. Rob Portman. Pictured from left: Suzanne T. Allen, Heidi Jark, Sen. Portman, Claudia Y.W. Herrold, Brian Wagner, Marissa Williams, Kate Keller and Renee Harvey.

That focus played out in our meetings on Capitol Hill, where elected officials and staff alike predicted that not much would get done for the rest of this year. Which has eight months left to go. One must-pass bill, we heard, is one dealing with FAA matters, and of course, there’s the budget bill or potential for a continuing resolution to fund the government if that fails to pass.

IMG_1054sylvia renee

Renee Harvey and Sylvia Perez speak with Sen. Rob Portman.

While hearing that may have dampened our hopes for moving our issues forward this year, it didn’t dampen the voice of those who spoke on behalf of philanthropy. 153 regional association foundation staff and trustees trekked the Senate and House office buildings to accomplish a few common goals:

  • Thanking those who voted for the PATH Act, which made the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent: after years of asking for reauthorization, there is no certainty for those donors aged 70 ½ or older to use their retirement assets for gifts to qualified charities without being taxed;
  • Asking them to support a further improvement to that provision, to allow donor advised funds (DAFs) to receive the IRA assets: HR 4907 and S 2750 both would make that change for this fast-growing charitable vehicle (Ohio’s community foundations hold 5,095 DAFs that made grants of more than $193 million in one year; and
  • Asking them to support a simplification and reduction of the private foundation excise tax: the current, two-tiered system that assesses tax on a private foundation’s net investment income is a complicated calculation that, if changed to a flat 1 percent as proposed, would provide more dollars for grantmaking.
IMG_4816 Gideon

Our Ohio delegation met with Gideon Bragin, senior tax policy advisor for Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Of our eight meetings with Ohio’s members of Congress – including those who serve on the all-important Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Committees – no one expressed concern about these provisions. But – and it’s a big but – no one held out much hope that either would move this year. That said, all also agreed that the bills and our meetings urging their passage, were important for setting the stage for the next congress. And that’s ultimately what our policy work is all about: being willing to stick with it (it took us 10 years to get the IRA Charitable Rollover made permanent) and acknowledge that policy work is a long-term venture and commitment.

Thanks to our Ohio leaders who traveled to Washington: Leah S. Gary, Renee Harvey, Heidi Jark, Kate Keller, Sylvia Perez, Brian Wagner and Marissa Williams.

Claudia Y.W. Herrold


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