Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spending records of Barton's charitable foundation raises questions

By LAURA ISENSEE - The Dallas Morning News - Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WASHINGTON – Rep. Joe Barton's charitable foundation, which has drawn headlines for the Arlington Republican, has spent more in overhead than on public causes, according to a published report.

A story in Monday's Washington Times noted that the charity started by Barton, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, raised money from industries with a stake in his committee's business and took credit for some donations that corporations made directly to local nonprofits.

The fundraising is "perfectly legal and by the books," said Sean Brown, a spokesman for Barton.

In its first three years, the Joe Barton Family Foundation spent more on overhead – about $130,000 – than it gave to charity. In 2006, it donated $90,000 to construct a new 10,000-square-foot facility for Boys and Girls Club of Navarro County, according to the group's tax reports.

The organization formed as a tax-exempt public charity in 2005. Its mission is to help nonprofits, primarily in Barton's district, build large-scale capital projects. His daughter-in-law runs the Arlington-based organization.

Overall, Barton's foundation has spent less than a quarter of its funds on public causes, according to the Times.

The typical charity rated by the watchdog group Charity Navigator spends about 75 percent on programs and services and 25 percent toward administration and fundraising costs.

There is no one-size-fits-all for how much charities should spend on overhead, said Elizabeth Boris, who directs the Urban Institute's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy.
Read more in the Dallas Morning News

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