ACLU Letter On Combined Federal Campaign "Black List"

July 31, 2004
ACLU Letter On Combined Federal Campaign "Black List"

Ms. Mara Patermaster
Director
Combined Federal Campaign
Office of Personnel Management
1900 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20415-1000

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Dear Ms. Patermaster:

I was disturbed and surprised to read your quote in today's New York Times that the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) expects its participating charities to inquire into the background of employees by "inspecting" government issued lists and checking employee rosters against them.

Certainly, that requirement is not clear from your certification and I am sure that most if not all of the 2,000 participating charities have a different practice and understanding of the CFC requirements.

It is increasingly clear that the Patriot Act and the government's "war on terror" are threatening the ability of America's non-profit charities to do their essential work. By requiring non-profit charities to check their employees against a "black list" in order to receive donations from the Combined Federal Campaign, you are furthering a climate of fear and intimidation that undermines the health and well-being of this nation. Organizations that enhance and promote America's health and education, the arts and the environment, children's services and religious life are now threatened by the web of fear that you are promoting. And that is wrong.

Let me be clear.

The ACLU would never have signed the CFC's funding agreement if we believed for one minute we would have to check our employees against a list. Our legal advice indicates that a reasonable interpretation of your certification is one that does not require us to check our employees against your lists. But based on your statements reported today in the Times that the ACLU "could be ruled temporarily ineligible for inclusion or they could be permanently excluded" for violating the government's policy, I must make our position crystal clear.

The ACLU hereby withdraws from the CFC rather than accept your terms as you have now described them. Your requirements would violate our fundamental principles.

We have found in ACLU litigation regarding other watch lists that these lists are notoriously riddled with error and do not provide individuals with a means to correct false information. If an employee's name matches up against the CFC lists, employers would be required to violate the privacy rights of employees and ask inappropriate questions that trample employees' associational rights.

Furthermore, we will determine the best course for challenging the CFC restrictions in court. And, in this climate of fear and intimidation, we will act not only on our behalf, but on behalf of our nation's non-profits, to defend ourselves against John Ashcroft and a government that tramples on the Constitution in the name of national security.

It is a sad day when the thousands of trusted organizations that rely on the CFC - from the largest charities to the smallest community centers - are made unknowing victims of the government's extreme policy. But ultimately, it is the nation's weakest and most vulnerable who will truly suffer - those who depend most on the essential services of these charities and non-profits. The ACLU will work aggressively to reverse this dangerous policy and defend the rights of non-profit organizations against an increasingly intrusive government.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director



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