ACR News 11.26.14—The Latest: Tentative Tax Extenders Deal in the Works

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Latest Development: IRA Charitable Rollover Deal is Still Tentative
>> Federal: Updated Election Results
>> Federal: House Ways and Means Committee
>> Federal: Senate Finance Committee
>> Consider This: Big Picture
>> Bonus Consider This: Pardon Me
>> Top Reads: ACR Signs Letter Calling for Charity-Related Provisions to be Made Permanent

With Thanksgiving celebrations kicking off tomorrow, we present you with an early edition of the ACR newsletter. Make sure you check out our Thanksgiving “Did you know?” at the end of this newsletter about the annual pardoning of the turkey.

Washington Roundup

Congress is in recess for the week of Thanksgiving and will return on December 1.

Latest Development: IRA Charitable Rollover Deal is Still Tentative

Yesterday, press reports were that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) were closing in on a deal to renew and make permanent various expiring tax provisions. This tentative deal – or trial balloon – would make permanent ten provisions, including the IRA charitable rollover. Two other charitable provisions would also be permanently extended: the deduction for conservation easement contributions and the deduction for gifts of food inventory.

However, just hours after these reports surfaced, the White House issued a veto threat on the tentative deal, saying the package would be too generous to businesses and too stingy towards working families. While it’s certainly better to be included in a tentative deal than excluded, the deal is far from done. Members will return to town on Monday, at which point we expect congressional Republicans and Democrats to weigh in on the Reid/Camp negotiation.

Updated Election Results

Since our last newsletter update, two of the outstanding Senate races have been resolved – Virginia’s Democratic Senator Mark Warner defeated challenger Ed Gillespie (R) by less than a point, and in Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R) ousted incumbent Senator Mark Begich (D) 48.8 to 45.6 percent. Republicans have now gained eight seats in the Senate, bringing the ratio of Republicans to Democrats to 53-46. Republicans have the chance to gain one more seat on December 6 when incumbent Mary Landrieu (D) faces Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) in a run-off. Current polling does not bode well for Landrieu – a November 19 poll showed Cassidy leading Landrieu by 11 points.

In the House, Republicans increased their majority to 244-188, with three races still outstanding, two of which are expected to stay Republican. The third, Arizona’s second district, will involve a recount, which will start on December 1 at the earliest. Regardless of these outstanding races, Republicans captured their largest majority in decades.

House Ways and Means Committee

Last week, the House Republican Steering Committee finalized its recommendations for chairmen next year. As expected, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will assume the Chair for Ways and Means. His challenger, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) reportedly withdrew his name from consideration after he realized he would not win. The full House GOP conference approved Ryan’s recommendation late last week.

For the Democrats, the House Democratic Caucus selected current Ways and Means Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI) to retain his post in the next Congress. Levin said he looks forward to working with Ryan, and he has “admired his determination, his interest in a broad range of issues, and the humor with which he has approached his intensive work in Congress.” In a letter to his colleagues last week, Levin told Democrats he would push ardently for tax policies that reform corporate tax inversions and trade negotiations.

Regarding filling vacancies on the committee, the House Republican Steering Committee formally added Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD), Congressman Pat Meehan (R-PA), Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congressman George Holding (R-NC) to Ways and Means for the 114th Congress.

On the Democratic side, final committee ratios have yet to be determined. If Democrats retain the same number of seats, current Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is expected to fill the available position left by Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), but no timeline has been set as of this writing.

Senate Finance Committee

In the Senate, committee assignments may not be set until after the Louisiana runoff, since the size and ratios of each Committee typically reflect the Senate’s overall breakdown. It is all but assured that current Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will take over the Senate Finance Committee chairmanship. Republicans will likely add at least one new member to the Finance Committee to reflect their majority, and they could add an additional seat if Senator Landrieu loses the runoff. Early reports suggest Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) are the contenders for these spots. Both Heller and Coats confirmed their interest in joining the Committee.

Due to the new ratio in the Senate, Democrats will lose at least one seat on the committee, and will likely not replace the retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). However, they may lose an additional seat if Senator Landrieu loses, in which case Virginia Senator Mark Warner could also be dropped, since he is the most junior Democrat on the panel. We expect the committee makeup to resemble the current ratio (13 Democrats and 11 Republicans) but, ultimately, incoming Majority Leader McConnell must make that final determination.

Consider This: Big Picture

As Democrats reflect on their losses and Republicans get ready to assume control in both the House and Senate, attention is already turning to 2016. This means that the window for any major legislative initiatives could be just six months once the new Congress convenes. Additionally, to protect their majority and increase their chances of taking back the White House in 2016, Republicans need to take a thoughtful approach to what bills they decide to support and oppose over the next two years.

One of the most important considerations for Senate Republicans is that they could lose their majority in two years. In 2016, Republicans will have to defend 24 seats to Democrats’ 10. Seven of those Republican seats are in states won by President Obama in 2008 and 2012. What does that mean in terms of legislating? Some hope Republicans will attempt to compromise and pass legislation, rebranding themselves as the party ‘for’ something, rather than ‘the party of no’ and giving their vulnerable members and their Presidential nominee a platform in 2016. However, given the factions within the Republican Party and the fact that neither chamber has a supermajority to override Presidential vetoes, only time will tell if incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will be able to unite their party and work with the administration to achieve their policy goals.

Bonus Consider This: Pardon Me

After such a positive response from our last “Did you know?” about Halloween, we give you a bonus DYK about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday rife with tradition—from splitting the wishbone to watching the Detroit Lions (since 1934, at least). One DC-centric tradition is the annual pardoning of the turkey by the President. The tradition, while a little silly, raises the question, when was the first official turkey pardon?

According to this blog post from the White House, the pardoning tradition may find its roots in Abraham Lincoln’s day when he honored the wish of his son, Tad, and spared the turkey destined for the family’s Christmas dinner. In 1963, President Kennedy was said to have sent a turkey provided for him back to the farm, as did President Nixon during his administration. Nixon even held a formal receiving ceremony and photo op. However, President George H.W. Bush gave the first official turkey pardon in 1989. The pardoned gobbler was eventually sent to the forebodingly-named Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia.


Top Reads

Please feel free to email us at if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.

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Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

1991: Campaign Against Tobacco Use

Each year more than 440,000 Americans die of tobacco use—the nation’s largest cause of preventable death, accounting for about one out of every five U.S. deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control. About two-thirds of smokers say they want to quit, but only about 5 percent succeed in a given year. In 1990, the new president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. Steven Schroeder, aimed his organization squarely at reducing “the harmful effects, and the irresponsible use, of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.” As part of this, the foundation spent $700 million on a range of anti-tobacco programs during the next two decades. Programs were aimed especially at reducing youth smoking, publicizing the bad health effects of smoking and of secondhand smoke, and helping addicted smokers quit. New organizations like the Center for Tobacco-Free Kids and SmokeLess States were formed, and allies such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association were enlisted as partners. Smoking incidence was already in a long secular decline—falling from 42 percent of all U.S. adults in 1965 to 26 percent in 1990. But the decline has continued since then among the remaining harder-core smokers, falling under 19 percent by 2011.

  • “The Tobacco Campaigns of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Collaborators, 1991-2010”
  • Federal | Federal Legislation

    ACR Signs Letter Calling for Charity-Related Provisions to be Made Permanent

    The Alliance for Charitable Reform has signed onto an open letter to Congress written by Independent Sector urging lawmakers to “make permanent the provisions in the America Gives More Act (H.R. 4719) before the end of 2014.”

    “This package of five charitable provisions includes renewing and making permanent three expired tax extender provisions: the IRA charitable rollover, the enhanced deduction for donating land conservation easements, and the enhanced deduction for donating food inventory. Also included is a measure to extend through April 15 the deadline for claiming charitable donations on the previous year’s tax filing and a measure to simplify to 1 percent the excise tax rate for private foundations’ investment income.”

    The letter was issued on November 18 and can be read in full by going here.

    Good Giving | Success Stories

    Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

    2012: Speeding Safe Shale-gas Production

    In 2012, two major philanthropists—oil-and-gas pioneer George Mitchell and Wall Street entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg—announced a joint effort by their foundations to encourage safe and efficient production of natural gas via shale fracking. They proposed to head off problems through “common-sense” state rules and voluntary adoption of best practices by the industry. The two foundations put up millions of dollars for efforts to improve fracking by minimizing water concerns, reducing methane leaks, optimizing well construction, disclosing chemical usage, and reducing local impacts on roads, land, and communities.

    In 2013, a related collaboration of philanthropic organizations, oil and gas companies, and environmental groups established a Center for Sustainable Shale Development. It set 15 voluntary standards for improving shale-gas production in the Appalachian region, and encourages drilling companies to earn certificates of operational excellence by meeting criteria monitored by an independent auditor. It is working with states to encourage sensible rules that will avoid environmental problems which could damage public support for hydraulic fracturing. The significance of this can be seen in the fact that fracking has become one of the most consequential economic, environmental, and national-security innovations of our time—turning the U.S. into the world’s largest gas producer in 2010, and the world’s largest oil producer in 2013.

    ACR News 11.14.14 - The Election: What Happened and What Does It Mean?

    >> Federal: Washington Roundup
    >> Federal: The Balance of Congress & Leadership Changes
    >> Federal: Senate Finance Committee
    >> Federal: House Ways & Means Committee
    >> Federal: Lame Duck
    >> Federal: What the Election Means for Tax Reform
    >> Federal: Key Dates
    >> Federal: ACR in Action
    >> Consider This: Consider This: What Does it Mean?
    >> Top Reads: GOP’s Senate Wins Boost Prospects of Tax Changes for Nonprofits

    Washington Roundup

    Congress returned to Washington on Wednesday after the midterm elections last Tuesday, November 4. Republicans reclaimed control of the U.S. Senate by gaining eight seats, with one state still outstanding, and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. This outcome means Republicans will control the tax reform process on both sides of Capitol Hill for at least the next two years.

    The Balance of Congress & Leadership Changes

    The big news is that Republicans took control of the Senate, picking up eight seats and giving them a majority of at least 53 to 46. While many expected the Senate to flip, few believed it was going to be by such a wide margin. Louisiana will hold a runoff on December 6 between incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican Representative Bill Cassidy. Neither of those candidates earned the required 50 percent plus-1 margin necessary to win the seat outright. Senator Landrieu faces an uphill battle in the runoff: RealClearPolitics polling averages show her trailing Cassidy by 4.8 points.

    Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was elected on Thursday to take over as Majority Leader next year. His deputies are also set to take over leadership positions accordingly. Current Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was also elected on Thursday as the Senate Minority Leader.

    In the House, Republicans increased their margin of control to their largest majority since World War II. Current Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will remain in charge, as will other top Republicans in leadership, following elections in the House Republican Conference on Thursday. For the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to remain Minority Leader and her deputies are expected to maintain their posts as well. House Democrats will hold their elections next week. 

    It is worth noting the Republicans also netted four additional governorships and firmly bucked what was expected to be anti-incumbent fervor across the country. Notably, Republicans picked up two key swing states – Ohio and Florida. This could have a significant impact on the 2016 Presidential election.

    Senate Finance Committee

    Barring any unforeseen events, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is expected to become Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. But there will be other changes to the committee that will be worked out over the coming weeks.

    The first task for Senate Republicans will be determining how large each Senate committee should be, and then the ratio of Republican members to Democrat members. These ratios are negotiated by leaders in both parties and typically reflect the Senate’s overall breakdown. Currently, there are 13 Democrats and 11 Republicans on Finance, which is approximately the same proportion as in the entire Senate.

    Senate Republicans also have their own rules that determine how committee members are chosen, term limits for chairmen, and limits on how many “Super A Committees” (Finance, Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Relations) senators can join.

    Under these rules, the party leader gets to fill odd-numbered committee openings, and even-number openings are based on seniority. So if there were only one GOP opening on a committee, Republican leader McConnell would fill the seat with the senator of his choosing. If there were two open slots, McConnell would name one, and the second would go to the most senior candidate hoping to join the committee. 

    On the Finance Committee, Republicans will likely add at least one new member to reflect their new majority. Early reports suggest that Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Dan Coats (R-IN) are frontrunners. Democrats will likely shrink their ranks first by not replacing retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), but Virginia Senator Mark Warner could be dropped since he is the most junior Democrat on the panel.

    House Ways & Means Committee

    While the House majority will remain Republican, the GOP increased its margin and will get to fill a few more seats on the Ways and Means Committee. According to a source on the Hill, committee chairs and new member assignments for the next Congress could be finalized as early as this week, but may also carry over into next week.

    In terms of process, the members of the House Republican Steering Committee are in charge of choosing new members for open committee seats. Per their rules, Speaker John Boehner has five of the 36 votes for each seat, but his influence goes beyond just those five votes. Unless there is a highly contested slot, most members follow the Speaker’s lead. The Steering Committee met this week and consulted its regional representatives to identify potential candidates for open slots on all House committees. Committee chairmanship selections, however, are far more political and often take place behind closed doors, even though the same Steering Committee oversees that process as well. 

    With Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) retiring and the election now over, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) formally announced his intentions to seek the Ways and Means gavel. It is likely he will face a challenge from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), but Ryan is widely considered the favorite. While every other Ways and Means member won re-election, Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Tim Griffin (R-AR) are retiring at the end of this year. For the Democrats, Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) unsuccessfully ran for governor and had to give up her seat. 

    With Ryan taking the gavel, there are four total spots to be filled on Ways and Means, in addition to those spots reflecting the new House majority. Reports suggest that Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Pat Meehan (R-PA) are the top candidates to fill two of the three vacancies on the majority side. A clear contender for the third spot has yet to emerge, though a number of candidates have been mentioned, including Representatives George Holding (R-NC), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Tom Rice (R-SC), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and Jason Smith (R-MO). On the Democratic side, current Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is expected to fill the available position left by Rep. Schwartz.

    Lame Duck

    Between now and Thanksgiving, the House will set party leadership and organize committee makeups. Since one Senate race will be decided in December, and control will flip to the Republicans, committee assignments and official leadership positions could be set at a later date.

    The “must-do” legislative items will then have to be resolved after Congress returns from Thanksgiving. Current government funding is slated to expire on December 11 and extending this funding is a top priority for both parties. We expect Republicans to aim for a long term spending bill that funds the government through most of next year. Also on the priority list is a tax extenders bill – one that renews nearly 60 short-term tax incentives that expire on an annual basis, including the IRA charitable rollover. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on November 7 that he hopes to reach a bipartisan deal on the extenders package during the lame duck period, though it remains unclear if a final package will include some of the additional provisions in the America Gives More Act, which passed the House earlier this year. ACR and our colleagues in the sector are currently working to help pass these provisions before the end of the year.

    Other items also remain on the table. We expect outgoing Majority Leader Reid to make a strong push for confirming the remaining Presidential appointments while he still has control of the Senate. This could lead to a heated debate, given the GOP’s anger over Reid’s handling of other nominees earlier this year, and potentially derail some of the issues discussed above. As of this writing, Reid has not announced his intentions. Larger issues, such as legislation to permanently extend authorization for the Export-Import Bank (current authorization expires in June, 2015), immigration reform, and comprehensive tax reform are unlikely to be taken up before the end of the year. 

    What the Election Means for Tax Reform

    We believe that progress will be made on tax reform in the next Congress. Incoming leaders of both tax-writing committees have stated they view comprehensive reform as a top priority. Other Members have also chimed in: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said he would urge Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to take up tax reform in January. Representative Brady noted there is “no question in [his] mind that a Republican-held Senate enhances the likelihood of a Senate tax draft in this next session.” Incoming Majority Leader McConnell specifically mentioned tax reform as one area of possible compromise with Democrats, and Speaker Boehner recently listed tax reform at the top of his “five key things we should do as a nation.”

    At the very least, Republicans and Democrats alike have called for revamping the corporate tax code and this could be the catalyst for undertaking the individual side as well. Comprehensive reform or not, the window for such legislation is small given the 2016 Presidential election on the horizon.

    Key Dates

    • Mid-November: House and Senate leadership elections
    • Mid-November or Early December: Congressional Committee leadership appointments
    • December 6: Louisiana Senate runoff
    • December 11: Continuing Resolution expires
    • January 5, 2015: 114th Congress convenes and House Speaker is sworn in
    • Late January: State of the Union
    • February 2: President’s FY 2016 budget due
    • March 15: End of suspension of debt limit
    • May 31: Expiration of the current Highway Bill, which has a tax component

    ACR in Action

    ACR Executive Director Sandra Swirksi recently participated in an event sponsored by the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy and Charities project that explored ways that existing charitable giving incentives, along with new platforms and better practices, can be leveraged to encourage philanthropy.

    Additionally, Joanne Florino, senior vice president for public policy at The Philanthropy Roundtable, participated in a panel discussion on tax reform this morning at the Southeastern Council of Foundation’s annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

    Consider This: What does it mean?

    Well the election is over and most (think Alaska) but not all of the votes have been counted. Still it is clear that Republicans had a very good evening, retaining control of the House by an ever wider margin and taking control of the Senate.

    What does it mean? In the Senate, every senator is a king (or queen) of sorts. Whether your party is up or down, you still can exert power, mostly by throwing a wrench in the works via a filibuster threat. However, controlling the Senate also means you have significant control over the “conversation.” You get to schedule the hearings, choose the topics and set the floor schedule. Being in charge is significant.

    What we also know is that with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, there will be tremendous outside pressure to deliver on Republican priorities. One of those priorities is tax reform. Be prepared for a fulsome debate over the next year on that topic. Add to that the fact that in 2016, the Republicans will have to defend more than twice as many seats as Democrats, meaning that the Senate could very well flip again. The pressure is definitely ratcheted up on Senate Republicans to get something done in the next two years to show voters they deserve to keep their majority.

    But first, we have to get through the lame duck. The tenor between the two parties coming out of that lame duck – be it amicable, or confrontational, or something in between – will tell us much about how the next two years play out and whether there is a real shot at getting substantive legislation to the President’s desk that he will actually sign. As we’ve said so many times before, stay tuned.

    Top Reads

    Please feel free to email us at if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.

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    BLOG: Post-Election Analysis

    A lot happened as a result of Tuesday’s elections and we are here to help you sort through it all. Below is a brief analysis of the election results and a glimpse at what we can expect in the makeup of congressional leadership as well as the tax writing committees.

    Continue reading…

    BLOG: ACR Expertise Highlighted in Coverage of Elections

    A couple of articles published and circulated Wednesday by the Chronicle of Philanthropy featured comments from staff and a member of the Alliance for Charitable Reform regarding the results of Tuesday’s elections. The Chronicle interviewed several nonprofit leaders, including ACR Executive Director Sandra Swirski, for an article analyzing the prospects of tax reform with Republicans taking control of the Senate and expanding its membership in the House of Representatives.

    Continue reading…

    Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

    1909 Milton Hershey School

    Chocolatier Milton Hershey didn’t invent the candy bar, but he was the first to transform it from expensive delicacy to treat affordable by all, and in the process he became very wealthy. He and his sickly wife, Kitty, were unable to have children, so they decided to give their sweet fortune to orphans and other needy boys living in hardscrabble—something Milton understood well, after a peripatetic childhood and education that ended at fourth grade, due to a father who left his family for long periods of time. In 1909, Hershey signed over to his new Hershey Industrial School, a fully operating 486-acre farm that included the homestead where he had been born. In 1918 he went much further, placing all of his shares in the Hershey Chocolate Company in a trust whose sole purpose was to benefit the school. He kept the transfer secret until it was revealed in a 1923 interview with the New York Times, when he explained that “I have no heirs, so I have decided to make the orphan boys of the United States my heirs.” To this day, the school retains controlling interest in the Fortune 500 Hershey Company, the Hershey park entertainment complex, and other businesses.

    Right up until Milton Hershey’s death in 1945 (at which point his only assets were his home and its furnishings, having given away everything else while he was still alive) he remained intimately involved in the running of the school. He made sure his boys (and now girls too) received very practical upbringings, “a thorough common school education, supplemented by instruction in the useful crafts.” He had three goals for every graduate: a vocation, a love of God and man, and a sense of wholesome responsibility. “We do not intend to turn out a race of professors,” he noted. Students had to build their own beds and chests in the school carpentry shop, and keep up with a host of chores, including twice-daily milking of the school’s cows. The milking requirement for students continued until 1989, as the curriculum gradually shifted toward college preparation. Highly structured chores requirements remain, as does mandatory chapel time on Sunday. And to this day, active work in the school’s agricultural, animal, and environmental centers (for example, a fish hatchery operated on the trout stream running through campus) are an important part of its efforts to promote initiative and responsibility.

    Beyond this emphasis on individual commitment, discipline, and work, Hershey is renowned for creating an authentically personal, warm, and nurturing environment. Students live in groups of 10-12, two or three to a bedroom, in more than a hundred closely clustered houses overseen by a married couple with childrearing experience. A transitional living program places seniors in quasi-independent apartments, where they get help in buying and preparing their own food, setting their schedules, and running their own lives in preparation for college or self-support after graduation. More than three quarters of graduates now go on to four-year college, just shy of ten percent enter the work force or military, and the remainder attend technical or two-year college. With 1,900 pre-K to twelfth-grade students—most with missing, deceased, or jailed parents and other disadvantages—today’s Milton Hershey School is the largest boarding school in America, and its $11 billion endowment, larger than all but a few universities, allows it to offer its education (including large scholarships for college) and superb care (including things like intensive counseling, orthodontia, all food and clothing) entirely free to each child.

    ACR News 10.31.14—Lincoln’s Ghost…and a Policy Update

    >> Federal: Lincoln’s Ghost
    >> Federal: Washington Roundup
    >> Federal: ACR Advisory Council on the Hill
    >> Federal: How Philanthropy Changed My Life
    >> Consider This: Consider This: Tax Reform Following the Midterms
    >> Top Reads: Donor-Advised Fund Spend-Down Proviso May Be Cut From Future Tax Overhaul Drafts

    Lincoln’s Ghost

    While we typically lead off the newsletter with the Washington Roundup, today it gets bumped in favor of a Halloween “Did you know?” about Abraham Lincoln’s ghost, courtesy of National Geographic.

    “While staying at the White House in the 1940s, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill—who disliked sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom—emerged naked from a bathtub and walked into an adjoining room. There, he supposedly ran right into Lincoln, who was leaning on the mantle above the fireplace. They looked each other in the face, to Churchill’s embarrassment, and Lincoln abruptly vanished, according to an account in Mark Nesbitt’s book Civil War Ghost Trails: Stories from America’s Most Haunted Battlefields.”

    Happy Halloween!

    Washington Roundup

    As the midterm election approaches, Capitol Hill is nearly deserted—to the delight of the ghosts who haunt the Hill’s hallways—as lawmakers remain focused on their campaigns at home. Off the Hill, at a conference hosted by the D.C. Bar Association last week, House Ways and Means Committee majority tax staff said the Committee is still receiving feedback on Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-MI) tax reform discussion draft from “all kinds of stakeholders.” One staffer added that the Committee is open to altering some provisions, singling out the five-year spend-down requirement for donor-advised funds as an area they are “definitely looking at.” ACR has worked on this issue since the draft was released and we are encouraged to see that our outreach has made an impact.

    Another Camp tax staffer also spoke at the event and said there’s “a good chance that [tax reform] will move forward in the next Congress” under a new Chairman. He pointed to ongoing interest from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) as another positive sign of continuing momentum on tax reform. While Chairman Camp will no longer be Chair in the next Congress, we do expect the next presumed Chair, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), to have a keen interest in tax reform as well.

    Meanwhile, speculation continues as to whether current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will push to complete all must-pass legislation before the end of the year—should Republicans take control of the Senate—or wait to take up those issues next year. Among these issues is passing tax extenders, or annually expiring tax provisions, which include the IRA charitable rollover provision. We will continue to keep you updated as the process unfolds.

    ACR Advisory Council on the Hill

    As you may recall, the ACR Strategy Committee met with Ways and Means tax staff in July to discuss our reaction to the Camp draft. Last week, ACR’s Advisory Council also met with committee staff to provide more technical feedback on ACR’s concerns with the draft, and to propose a few alternatives for the Committee to consider as work toward tax reform continues.

    How Philanthropy Changed My Life

    We would like to share one more video from the Annual Meeting of The Philanthropy Roundtable, which was held a few weeks ago in Salt Lake City, Utah. The concluding session, “How Philanthropy Changed My Life,” featured three American leaders who owe their successes to the creative giving a free society makes possible. Jason Tejada, one of over 139,000 Children’s Scholarship Fund recipients, chronicled his journey in New York City from Incarnation School to Columbia University to a career in finance. Another speaker was Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies and one of the scientists portrayed in the movie “Jurassic Park.” Jack’s Hell Creek Project, largely underwritten by philanthropy, led to fossil discoveries that have significantly advanced understanding of the growth of dinosaurs. The final speaker was Brent Adams, who founded the animation department at Brigham Young University. With the help of philanthropy, he confronted that pedagogical challenge and created a multi-disciplinary model across the engineering, computer science, and fine arts colleges at BYU.

    Consider This: Tax Reform Following the Midterms

    With less than a week to go before the election, we don’t know for sure if Republicans will take control of the Senate, but we suspect they will. What does that mean for general policy and tax reform in particular?

    If Republicans do take control of the Senate, we believe that leadership in both the House and Senate will want to put some semi-controversial issues away during the lame duck – issues like funding the government beyond December 11 and extending tax provisions like the IRA charitable rollover. While that may be the goal, things are often easier said than done.

    On tax reform, the bar seems to be set high. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a leader in the House, went so far as to say that if Republicans take the Senate, “it’s a put-up or shut-up moment for us” on tax reform. On the Senate side, the presumed Chair of the Finance Committee if Republicans take control, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), has made it clear that tax reform is his top priority. His Democratic colleague, current Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), has been making pitches for tax reform as well. Even a former high ranking Obama Administration official, Gene Sperling, has chimed in to say that corporate tax reform might be doable in the next Congress. We take that as a signal that the Administration is thinking seriously about tax reform.

    Regardless of which party is in control, we expect significant activity on taxes next year. However, as we know, dragging something far-reaching across the finish line for a Presidential signature is going to be tricky.

    Top Reads

    Please feel free to email us at if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.

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    Achieving Results | Good Giving | Success Stories

    Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

    2002 - Boosting Electronic Health Records

    Electronic health records that are consistent, interchangeable, and accessible by consumers and health professionals from anywhere will be essential to many future advances in health care, including medicine that is personalized to the patient, better quality control, and reduction of duplication and waste that inflates prices. It’s estimated that electronic health records could save more than $100 billion in unnecessary medical costs.

    Back in 2002, when universal electronic records were just starting to be discussed seriously, the Markle Foundation put up $2 million to launch Connecting for Health. The foundation acted as a neutral convener on this contentious topic, bringing together computer experts, medical professionals, insurers, government, and other interested parties—rejecting no one who wanted to participate. When the effort began to show promise, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation became a partner and put additional millions into supporting regular exchanges of information among participants.

    In 2003, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson announced, while offering thanks to the Markle Foundation, that the standards produced out of the Connecting for Health meetings would be adopted by the federal government as it moved toward personal electronic health records. Duke University’s philanthropy center concluded that because of its inclusive and neutral approach, the Markle Foundation’s contribution was crucial. “The value added by Markle’s participation has been widely recognized. As a private foundation, Markle was able to fill a key niche: that of the convener. No other entity, public or private, would have been able to conduct the discussions that led to the Connecting for Health standards.”