On March 24, Metro/San Jose Inside reported that Santa Clara Family Health Foundation (SCFHF) executive board member and officer Cindy Chavez participated in a board decision to provide $250,000 in funding to the Yes on A committee, of which she and Kathleen King—CEO of SCFHF—constituted a majority of the three-member committee. The committee subsequently turned over a large portion of the funds to the South Bay Labor Council Issues PAC and Democratic Central Committee’s PAC. Because of Chavez’s obvious conflicts of interest—she headed up the SBLC at the time—and the importance of a countywide sales tax increase, which will be paid by all residents, Metro/San Jose Inside felt this was a matter of public interest.
On Friday, nine nonprofit executives wrote a letter to express their thoughts on recent articles. They worry that investigative reporting could make nonprofits “the target of unfounded accusations and public reproach.” Because we feel this is a useful debate to have, and because we want to give differing points of view the proper attention they deserve, we are running below the letter in full, in addition to its appearance in the comments section where it was submitted. —Editor
29 March 2013
Metro / SanJoseInside.com
Recent articles in the Metro have criticized two local non-profit organizations, the Valley Medical Center Foundation and the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation, for their support of Measure A, a small sales tax increase to fund county services. The clear implication of the article is that it is risky for non-profits to engage in lawful political activities and collaborations. If they do so, they may suddenly become the target of unfounded accusations and public reproach. The effects of this guilt-by-innuendo message will be bad for non-profits, bad for public policy, and bad for free speech in Silicon Valley.
To begin with, the IRS specifically acknowledges the right of non-profits to support or oppose ballot measures and to earmark resources for those purposes. Decisions by government directly affect the charitable objectives that non-profits seek to accomplish. If non-profits have the goal of supporting high quality health services to the indigent or supporting health insurance for low-income children, then the financial capacity of county and community clinics and of Valley Medical Center are of paramount importance. Non-profits that significantly supported Measure A have performed a positive service for the hundreds of thousands of county residents that depend on the county health and hospital system for their well-being.
Secondly, it is commonplace in Santa Clara County for non-profits, clinics, community groups, and the county to collaborate in order to create and implement health care innovations, to seek and win major grants, and most recently to implement federal health reform. A collaboration that included People Acting in Community Together, Working Partnerships, the Santa Clara Family Health Plan, labor unions, and county government created the extraordinarily successful Children’s Health Initiative. The county, unions, and community groups collaborated on the bond issue that is funding a public hospital that meets modern earthquake standards. Clinics, non-profits, and community groups have formed a major collaboration to perform outreach for the new health exchange. When people from other places interested in health care visit our region, they invariably express admiration for our track record of working together.
True, some individuals work on behalf of more than one organization. Unfortunately, here, as elsewhere, there aren’t enough dedicated people to take on all the important volunteer roles, and some folks do more than their share. In the non-profit world, we view those people with gratitude. Metro views them with suspicion.
Finally, non-profits should be engaged in lawful political activity because we have something useful to say. We aren’t mere do-gooders; we are experts in our fields. We should speak out, and government should listen. Metro articles that would discourage us from bringing our voices into public debates are harmful to the robust discussion of ideas and to the spirit of free speech in our region.
Carole Leigh Hutton
President and CEO
United Way Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits
Gardner Family Health Network
Valley Medical Center Foundation
Asian Law Alliance
Silicon Valley Independent Living Center
San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP
Sacred Heart Community Service
President and CEO
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte