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Thread: U.S. Seeks Donations To Help Pay For Iraq

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    U.S. Seeks Donations To Help Pay For Iraq

    New twist on Iraq aid: U.S. seeks donations


    WASHINGTON - (KRT) - From the Indian Ocean tsunami to the church around the corner, Americans have shown time and again they are willing to open their pocketbooks for charity, for a total of about $250 billion last year alone.

    But now, amid pleas for aid after Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration has launched an unusual effort to raise charitable contributions for another cause: the government's attempt to rebuild Iraq.

    Although more than $30 billion in taxpayer funds have been appropriated for Iraqi reconstruction, the administration earlier this month launched an Internet-based fundraising effort that it says is aimed at giving Americans "a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq."

    Contributors have no way of knowing who's getting the money or precisely where it's headed, because the government says it must keep the details secret for security reasons.

    But taxpayers already finance the projects the administration is seeking charitable donations for, such as providing water pumps for farmers. And officials say any contributions they receive will increase the scope of those efforts, rather than relieve existing taxpayer burdens.

    The campaign is raising eyebrows in the international development and not-for-profit communities, where there are questions about its timing - given needs at home - and whether it will set the government in competition with international not-for-profits.

    On a more basic level, experts wonder whether Americans will make charitable donations to a government foreign aid program, and whether the contentious environment surrounding Iraq will make a tough pitch even tougher.

    "I'm a little skeptical, and the timing certainly isn't the best," said James Ferris, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California. "It's going to be a hard sell."

    The U.S. Agency for International Development, the federal government's primary distributor of foreign aid, said Friday, "Charitable contributions play an important role in enriching and extending U.S. government efforts."

    The effort is just the newest twist in the administration's struggle to rebuild Iraq. Andrew Natsios, head of USAID, first predicted it would cost taxpayers no more than $1.7 billion. The tab has since risen to more than $30 billion, with congressional Republicans and Democrats sharply critical of the high cost and slow pace of progress.

    In addition, the new campaign comes amid increasing concerns that some of the administration's major projects in Iraq will be scrapped or only partially completed because of rising costs, especially for security. Some officials fear money may run out before key projects are completed.

    Natsios announced the Internet-based campaign in a speech Sept. 9. In a press release issued the same day, USAID said its new Web site "will help American citizens learn more about official U.S. assistance for Iraq and make contributions to high-impact development projects."

    Although USAID has received private donations from corporations in the past, this may be the first time it has geared a charity pitch for U.S. foreign aid dollars to citizens.

    Initially, the Web site, called, is offering potential contributors a choice of eight projects, each seeking $10,000 or less. They include purchasing computers for centers designed to assist Iraqi entrepreneurs, buying furniture and supplies for Iraqi elementary and high schools, paying for the production of posters to promote "awareness of disabilities and rights issues" and buying water pumps for farmers.

    There is also a general Iraq country fund, offering donors "another high-impact giving opportunity without making them have to specify a project."

    All of the projects are from USAID's existing portfolio of reconstruction programs in Iraq, according to the agency.

    Heather Layman, a USAID spokeswoman, said the efforts are being carried out by five private organizations working on Iraq reconstruction with USAID funding. The site does not provide details about the groups involved, or the project locations, because of "security issues in Iraq."

    The government says all contributions are tax-deductible.

    William Reese, the president and CEO of the International Youth Foundation, said USAID officials did not discuss the campaign with a special advisory committee that he serves on and formerly chaired.

    That committee, made up primarily of representatives from nonprofit groups working overseas, is supposed to help "provide the underpinning for cooperation between the public and private sectors in U.S. foreign assistance programs," according to USAID.

    Reese said some not-for-profit groups may see the effort as competition, but he predicted few would be concerned because of a more basic issue: While Americans are generous, he said, "I don't think your average Joe is going to write a check to the U.S. government."

    Carol Lancaster, a foreign aid expert and an associate professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, also questioned the premise of the program.

    "Places that are seen as public agencies or clones of public agencies don't get private donations," said Lancaster, who also served as a former deputy administrator at USAID. "People generally believe, `It's government, so government should pay for it.'"

    Nassarie Carew, a spokeswoman for InterAction, an umbrella group of more than 160 nonprofits working overseas, said her organization also was not aware of the effort. Its CEO, Mohammad Akhter, serves on the USAID advisory panel. Carew declined to comment until the group had a chance to survey its members.

    Layman, the USAID spokeswoman, called the Web site "a passive solicitation," saying potential donors would likely find it only if they were "looking for a way to support Iraq's redevelopment."

    She also said some "people who might have donated to projects in Iraq will now choose to put money toward Katrina relief," but that others "will still want to help in Iraq."

    She said Iraqi-Americans had specifically asked USAID to help them find an avenue for contributions.

    Raising charitable contributions for overseas projects can be a challenge even when the U.S. government is not at the center of the pitch. And Iraq is one of the government's most controversial foreign policy ventures in decades.

    The group that set up the web site for USAID, DevelopmentSpace Foundation, Inc., operates its own, separate Web site seeking charitable donations for small-scale projects in developing countries.

    Since its founding in 2001, that effort has raised a total of about $2 million, said Allison Koch, a foundation spokeswoman.

    The organization keeps a 10 percent commission for contributions, and has received most of its operating funds through major grants from several other foundations. USAID also gave it a grant of $1.5 million.

    Although still in its infancy, the Iraqpartnership Web site had generated contributions totaling $39 as of Friday night.

    According to the Giving USA Foundation, which tracks annual charitable donations by Americans, international giving accounted for only 2.1 percent of all charity in the United States last year.

    Ferris, the director of the USC philanthropy center, said that's because people want to donate to causes closer to home.

    Except for the fact that the aim of foreign aid is to bolster U.S. foreign policy objectives overseas, Ferris said the new USAID campaign seems like a natural extension of the growing trend toward public-private partnerships.

    "There is this blurring of the lines," he said. "A lot of things once paid for by the public are now paid through private sources."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #2
    somebigguy Guest
    We have all paid through the nose for this pathetic war. Its called income tax.

  3. #3
    beltman713 Guest
    Fucking pathetic. I can see it now, when those people's water and electricity runs out for good, our forces over there are really going to be in for it.

  4. #4
    PhilosophyGenius Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by somebigguy
    We have all paid through the nose for this pathetic war. Its called income tax.
    Fo Realz...

  5. #5
    somebigguy Guest
    I thought Iraq would pay for their own rebuilding with all of their oil profits??? Oh, no, thats just what Bush said would happen, I should have known better...

  6. #6
    PhilosophyGenius Guest
    Personally I think this can be seen as good news. This gives everyone who voted for Bush a chance to personal support our troops by donating their own money. Let's see how much money thier gonna give.

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