Funding for Charities Should Not Be Tied to Screening

Washington, DC - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a number of other nonprofit organizations in filing for an injunction from the US District Court in Washington, DC, to stop the federal government from requiring the charities to use blacklists in order to receive payroll donations from federal employees. The groups argue that the new requirement, which was implemented without any notice or public comment period, is not authorized by statute and violates the First and Fifth Amendments.

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) enables federal employees to contribute easily to their favorite nonprofit organizations through automatic payroll deductions. In 2003 alone, this program brought over $248 million to thousands of charities. Earlier this year, the government for the first time began requiring all organizations participating in the CFC to certify that they have screened every employee and expenditure against a series of blacklists created by the government on the basis of secret information. Charities that refuse to sign the certification cannot participate in the CFC, even if they meet all other requirements.

"The government can't force charities to become its 'anti-terrorism enforcers' simply because federal employees donate to those charities," said Kevin Bankston, EFF Attorney and Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow. "EFF refuses to violate the privacy of its clients and employees by screening them against secretly compiled blacklists. It was wrong during the McCarthy era, and it's wrong now."

EFF participated in the CFC program for two years prior to the blacklist certification requirement but withdrew from the program earlier this year in protest.

Kevin Bankston
Attorney, Equal Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow
Electronic Frontier Foundation