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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Should county commissioners be donating tax money to charity?

Willy Week's story about the Multnomah County commissioners' expense accounts raised a few eyebrows. Part of it was another round of the journalistic game of "Who Had the Pickle?" But there were some newsworthy tidibits in there.

One item called into question was commissioners' paying to attend charity fundraisers. They say there's enough of a connection to their duties that they need to show up at these things on the public's dime, even if the tickets are 50 bucks a pop. Diane McKeel also drags her staff with her to these events, including six City Club confabs and trips to conferences in Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Newport about human trafficking.

Since part of the ticket prices at charity dinners is usually a donation to the charity, a commissioner who buys a ticket is in effect sending tax dollars to the sponsoring nonprofit as a contribution. Shouldn't that sort of decision be made by the board as a whole, rather than by individual commissioners?

Comments (8)

If I recall correctly, when she wasn't hosting pizza parties, Maria Lisa Johnson over at the "human rights" bureau was funneling money to her favorite Latino fundraisers.

That's even worse, of course. Nobody voted for her.

If they don't feel it's worthwhile to pay out of their own pocket, why would they feel it is OK to pay out of the taxpayer's pocket?

I work for a private company, and attend many of these events. I never ask my employer to reimburse me, even it would remotely benefit my company. Heck, sometimes we even donate our products for the various silent auctions that might be a part of these events. Tax deduction for those donations? Typically not, since they are not that large in the grand scheme of things. What we hope to get is the goodwill.

If you donate items from your business, the cost of those items should be deductible as a business expense, for promotion or advertising.

Look at Kafoury's deductions, $350 for a BRO dinner? That seems a bit beyond FMV for food served, it's contribution - and she doesn't care.

I work for a private company, and attend many of these events. I never ask my employer to reimburse me, even it would remotely benefit my company.

Why not? People ask taxpayers to reimburse them every year on their tax forms.

There's a considerable difference between a charitable contribution and purchasing a ticket for a real product from a charity. When a charity sells a dinner ticket to supporters, they purchase those dinners from a hotel or restaurant. That's a real, and I think not-deductible, cost passed from the charity to the ticket buyer. Now there may be added cost to the ticket which is a contribution - depends on the event and organization. That added portion may be deducted.

For charitable contributions, politicians are, with lawyers and priests, poor prospects. Priests are the worst. But no nonprofit manager adds politicians to their prospect pool, even though we like it when they show up. It's great to show support for charity and to encourage the community to get and stay engaged.

That being said no politicians show up for our events. Occasionally priests do, but only for funerals, and those are tough fundraising venues.

"People ask taxpayers to reimburse them every year on their tax forms."

Fine, then Kafoury should donate out of her paycheck and claim an exemption instead of operating under the aegis of govt.

The $ are the issue - $350 to BRO from her account she doesn't see, $350 after tax to BRO means she probably would have to actually donate $200+ (assuming 30% tax bracket.)

BTW - I am not picking on BRO, it seems the most glaring example of commissioners spending our money instead of their's on a political organization.

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