Report: Bush Administration is Targeting Progressive Non-Profits

A new report reveals a disturbing pattern: the Bush administration is targeting non-profits that criticize the government. The report by OMB Watch, a nonpartisan non-profit that monitors government and non-profit issues, found that the Bush administration is attacking the non-profit sector in three ways: imposing limits on non-profit speech, targeting non-profit advocacy, and implementing the USA Patriot Act, which gives the government unprecedented surveillance powers. “If you disagree with the administration on ideological grounds, they’re going to come down with a hammer,” Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, told the Village Voice. “This has huge implications for the free flow of speech in this country.”

OMB Watch calls the current assault on non-profits “death by a thousand cuts” that often falls under the radar of media and public interest groups. One publicized example of the pattern OMB Watch sees is the case of the San Francisco-based group Stop AIDS, which came under fire for using sexually explicit language in their materials. Since Bush took office, the group has been audited by Health and Human Services (HHS) twice and they were required to submit their program materials to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for review, even when these programs were funded privately. Even though a panel charged with ensuring that federal grantees were not encouraging sexual activity approved the workshops, the CDC as recently as June sent a letter threatening to cut federal funding if it did not change its language, according to the Village Voice. “We know that what it takes to catch the eye of a guy walking down Castro Street after 20 years after the movement began may raise the eyebrows of men in Washington, DC” Shana Krochmal, Stop AIDS spokesperson, told the Voice. “But it takes a certain kind of method to get our point across.” Other AIDS advocacy groups were subjected to scrutiny after they took part in a demonstration against Bush’s AIDS policies at an international conference in Barcelona last summer.

Another clear example involved a much less controversial non-profit: the National Head Start Association. In response to Bush’s plan to decrease funding of Head Start and switch to block grants, the group encouraged parents and teachers to contact their members of Congress with their concerns that this would weaken the program, the Voice reports. HHS sent a letter to Head Start grantees giving them vague and confusing information about their right to lobby and threatening them with loss of funding. The group sued the administration and won, with the court making it clear that non-profits can lobby with their non-federal funds. However, as OMB Watch points out, this represents a clear example of the Bush administration attempting to stop non-profit advocacy for purely political reasons.

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OMB Watch report 7/28/03; Village Voice 8/5/03

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