WASHINGTON — As the American Red Cross responds to another round of deadly tornadoes overnight, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is introducing legislation that aims to make sure the relief agency is spending its funds appropriately.
Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, says his bill would give a congressional watchdog group more complete access to Red Cross records for oversight. “It’s a tax-exempt organization,” Grassley says. “My committee has responsibility over making sure tax exemption is used properly.”
He says the bipartisan American Red Cross Transparency Act of 2019 responds to concerns the agency tried to halt a review by the Government Accountability Office and limited the scope of the review. “We feel that there hasn’t been enough transparency on the part of this federally-chartered organization,” Grassley says, “and that’s pretty important because most non-profits aren’t federally-chartered, very few are.”
The American people rely on the Red Cross to respond when tragedy strikes and it receives federal tax dollars for some of its disaster responses. Grassley says Congress has a responsibility to make sure the Red Cross answers questions asked on the public’s behalf and is operating up to the standards required of it during disasters. “The bottom line is, the Red Cross needs to share their books with the federal government when it’s investigated,” Grassley says. “And we want to make sure the Government Accountability Office has access to the records so the Red Cross can’t impede government review.”
Grassley says the Red Cross has shown an “unwillingness” to answer questions in the past and the legislation strengthens transparency to make the agency more accountable to the public.