Not a bad idea...
Leaders of some nonprofit social service agencies detect a political conspiracy in an impending legislative review of their budgets and operations.
The House has authorized a review of the nonprofits by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. It will examine compensation for the 20 highest-paid executives in each organization, the organizations' other administrative costs, association dues, assets and operating costs.
Many nonprofit leaders say the scrutiny is in retaliation for their opposition to deep social service state budget cuts the lawmakers have passed, especially to opposition that included grass roots political advocacy.
There undoubtedly is something to the claim, in that resolution sponsor Rep. Scott Petri, a Bucks County Republican, said lawmakers will be looking for "top-heavy" organizations and those that spend money on "lobbying." (As everyone knows, state lawmakers always recoil in revulsion from paid lobbyists.)
Mr. Petri also said that the exercise will be extended to for-profit entities that receive state funding for social service programs
Regardless of the motivation for the review, it isn't necessarily a bad idea. Much of the information it will accumulate already is in the public realm, since the agencies must file financial data with several government agencies to justify their tax exemptions. The results will have to be disclosed publicly, which should provide some protection against the report being used as a political cudgel.
What is encouraging is the Legislature's newfound love of transparency. We can hope, it soon will follow the nonprofit disclosure project with greater openness within the Legislature itself: mandatory expense reports and receipts in exchange for reimbursements; repeal of exemptions that allow lawmakers to keep secret an array of information that must be disclosed by other public officials; real-time online disclosures of campaign contributions right through Election Day; and on and on.
There's no reason not to take a comprehensive look at nonprofits. But there's every reason for the Legislature to first take a look at itself.