Should an organization that receives public funds be able to make political donations?

I’ve been meaning to ask this in light of the Planned Parenthood debate, but the question is much broader than them. It seems to me that any organization that receives government money should be in need of it to do the work they do. And that donating any money back to a political party has two problems. By donating they money they are, in essence saying that: 1) They’re saying that they don’t need the money (the amount they donated), and 2) the money comes from all Americans and then is given to one party.


On the face of it this sounds reasonable. Can Planned Parenthood and other organizations donate to political candidates? I know their employees can (obviously – these are private citizens), but can the organizations themselves?

Some googling reveals that non-profits like PP cannot donate to political campaigns. There are Political Action Committees (PACs) tied to Planned Parenthood, but these PACs are not allowed to use any of Planned Parenthood’s money… I don’t see how this could be prevented without extensive campaign finance reform that curtails or bans PACs themselves. Strictly speaking, the organization Planned Parenthood doesn’t and can’t donate to any political candidates or PACs.

See here. The organization evidently has two political arms:

Yes – those are PACs, that are barred by law from using any of Planned Parenthood’s money. Are you proposing limiting or banning Political Action Committees? We might agree on that, depending on the specifics.

Yes, I know they’re PACs. So I guess that would be difficult to restrict. I guess Organization X should be free to raise money to affect politics, as long as the funds are not shared with the entity receiving the government funding. I think they deserve a high degree of scrutiny to ensure that a line is not crossed.

Scrute away.
edited to add: But don’t you think that if there was the slightest possibility they had crossed that line, Congresscritters would have thrown it in their faces by now?

Sounds good to me! Lovely to agree sometimes, ain’t it? :slight_smile:

I don’t really mean for this to be about Planned Parenthood (which I support). I’m sure that they, and many other organizations, play fast and loose with the funds, but I don’t think there’s any way to stop it 100%. For me, it’s just one more reason to be very stingy with government money.

Too boring. :wink:


There, better.

I gotta say that I disagree with the premise in the OP.

If the gubmin’ pays me to provide particular services either to the gubmin’ or to the public at large, and I provide those services, that’s a done deal. If I have other funds sources elsewhere, it’s no business of the gubmin’ how I use those those funds.

If there are lobbyists out there seeking to have Planned Parenthood’s funding cut off, is Planned Parenthood supposed to sit on its hands and just watch it happen?

If for-profit corporations have a constitutional right to donate to political parties, then non-profit corps should as well.

Now you want to put limits on who can make campaign contributions? That’s like locking the barn after the horse has been made into the glue used by not particularly bright children to make macaroni art their parents pretend to like.

They do still have to file tax returns with the IRS and the states they reside in. And they have an periodic external audit requirement so they are watched pretty carefully. It is unlikely they could be too ‘fast and loose’ without getting caught.


Do these PACs have the same leadership? Do they share any office space, equipement, or staff with Planned Parenthood Federation (the folks who actually provide medical services)? What exactly is the extent of their connection?

Should a Strawman be allowed to make political donations?

Lockheed Martin receives many billions of dollars of public funds. These are expenditures on munitions that Congress decided were in the public interest. PP is compensated for family planning services that Congress decided were in the public interest. Goldman Sachs received billions of dollars of government funds during the 2008 credit crisis. AT&T provides telephone services to the government. Et cetera. With the exception of PP, these companies are among the very biggest of all campaign donors. Is your question directed to include them? What am I missing?

It’s worth noting that when the government “funds” an organization, it’s not just writing them a check and saying “keep doing the good work”.

The government funds specific projects and programs. It’s basically outsourcing specific tasks to people who have better access, more flexibility, or can do something more efficiently than the government can. They don’t just fund an organization as a whole. They contract with or provide a grant to that organizations to provide a certain good or service.

In this case, the government would like to provide reproductive healthcare to low income families, but doesn’t want to get into the business of running a set of clinics. So they provide Planned Parenthood funding to provide those services. At specified times, Planned Parenthood provides reporting on how many people they are providing what services to, and if they aren’t doing what they said they’d do with the money, they can expect consequences.

So the government isn’t really too worried about what the organization is doing with other funds. They paid for specific activities or outcomes, and if they get that, they’ve got their part of the deal. Just like if I pay Boeing to make me an airplane, my big concern is if they built my airplane. I couldn’t care less if they are also building someone else a merry-go-round.

These are excellent questions to be asked when looking at any entity.