24 May 2018

Roundtable Petitions NY Attorney General to Uphold Philanthropic Freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C — The Philanthropy Roundtable has submitted public comments to New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood challenging public comments by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. NCRP urged Attorney General Underwood to interfere with the board selection process for the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, a private foundation that will be created as a result of the proposed sale of Fidelis Care New York to the Centene Corporation.

“[I]f the state dictates the board composition of a private foundation at its formation or any other time, the independence of civil society is severely jeopardized. Forcing the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to accept a different slate of board members than what its creators have chosen would very clearly represent an attempt to subordinate civil society to the state, giving the latter authority over the leadership of the former. It is impossible to conceive of civil society as a truly independent sector if its leadership is determined by government officials,” wrote Sean Parnell, vice president of public policy at The Philanthropy Roundtable.

The Roundtable argued that philanthropic freedom is essential to maintain America’s culture of giving, and that elected officials should not interfere with the composition or governing choices of private organizations as long as they are operating within the law.

“Philanthropic freedom means that Americans, both individually and corporately, have the right to choose how and where to spend their charitable assets, including the freedom to make key governance decisions such as the board composition of private foundations. Without philanthropic freedom, giving by Americans would wither as the state attempted to steer giving to causes and organizations that satisfy the preferences of elected officials, political appointees, and civil servants but not those of givers, who ultimately have the freedom to decide not to give at all or, in the case of foundations, spend down,” explained Parnell in the comments.

Parnell also expressed religious liberty concerns as the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation will be grounded in faith and adhere to the tenets and teachings of the Roman Catholic Faith.

“[T]he principles of an independent civil society, philanthropic freedom, and religious liberty should guide your office’s decision in this and similar matters, and lead you to reject the comments submitted by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy,” concluded Parnell

A copy of the submitted comments can be found here.