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back to article Oxfam, you're full of FAIL. Leave economics to sensible bods

As I become ever more viciously right wing with age, I become ever more disappointed with Oxfam. It's not just because I have left behind the views of Genghis and am galloping up close behind Attila. It's rather that the organisation itself has changed from being that well-meaning, thoroughly humanitarian organisation that doled …

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Good Grief!

It's like being told by an Eton toff that I don't have a right to complain about being hungry because these modern food banks are really rather spiffing!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good Grief!

What are you complaining about? Not happy with bingo tax relief and 1p discount on a pint? The Tories are very proud of their pro-plebs budget....

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Re: Good Grief!

Well, if the food banks work as expected you wouldn't be hungry and you indeed wouldn't have the right to complain about it. The food banks don't even have to be spiffy, they need to be functional. That still leaves enough to be said about how desirable or effective a specific solution to your hunger is, who should provide it, who actually needs it etc. But no, you can't complain about bing hungry if your not actually hungry. Just like the queen can't complain about being poor.

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Re: Good Grief!

His point was that, as someone with a few thousand pounds in positive wealth, I am *also* richer than the bottom 10-20% of people in society, because they have negative wealth. And because they have negative wealth, adding them together makes an even more negative number. *Anyone* is richer than the collection of all people in negative wealth, including people in negative wealth!

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Comment magnet

Obviously a comment troll but if you can't beat 'em, join 'em...

In my view this article is a flow of shock-jock verbage covering a threadbare line of reasoning which would promptly melt in the crucible of any serious analysis. I have seen more nuanced argument in a rap video.

The author says that the "bottom 10 or 20%" of Britons are in "negative wealth", meaning insolvent, or with liabilities exceeding assets. He supports this with several daft statements:

"You can be running along in a well paid job, be renting, carry a bit of credit card debt and have no net wealth."

No. Renters in good employment generally have savings >0, or larger, often with the eventual aim of buying a property. Credit card debt ? No. The possessions you bought on credit have value to balance against the debt, except in cases of gross fecklessness.

"Take a newly minted graduate carrying £30k odd of student debt. Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth"

No. 30k of student loan is not like 30k of real debt. It is a a limited liability, legally enshrined with guaranteed favourable terms, means testing and slow repayment. Otherwise, students not from the "lucky sperm club" would have to declare bankruptcy on their first day of employment. Absurd.

"But then the state pension is also wealth"

No it is income.

"The right to live in a council house at a subsidised rent of the rest of your life is wealth"

It may be considered a moral benefit in the wider sense, but not wealth. Wealth is assets, your property, ie. that which you control. You have only marginal control of your council house. Because it isn't yours.

"...given the existence of possible negative wealth, then of course one person or another in the UK will have more wealth than the entire lowest swathe".

For Pete's sake. One rich person may have more wealth then the sum of people with genuine NW, but those people number far fewer than your "bottom 10 or 20%", which you have deliberately overstated simply in order to equate it with Oxfam's "20%". Furthermore, you have argued that insolvency is widespread and that the poor are therefore actually much poorer than Oxfam has claimed. Rebuttal FAIL.

Should have stopped at "rap video".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Comment magnet

You've obviously completed missed the entire point of the article - which is that what we consider wealth is absurd - so all the points you're making about what he considers wealth not technically being wealth are in fact not only pointed out in the article, but the entire point of it. The author was trying to make the point that while what Oxfam has said is technically correct, it is based on technical definitions that are completely misleading.

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Anonymous Coward

Sort of agree

But, of the main 'feed the starving' charities they are still my favourite.

I like there stand on Israel for example.

Could they be better ? absolutely.

But given the choice of giving money to Oxfam or Christian Aid, it goes to oxfam every time.

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Erm... really?

Why does a "feed the hungry" charity need to have a position on the Israel/Palestine question?

Why do they need a position on Global Warming? Or Social Justice?

I would have plenty of time for them if they stuck to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

But that's not glamorous enough, it seems.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

Yes, why can't they just shut up and fix what our society breaks, without calling us out? Prole free speech is such a burden.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

They are supposed to be a "Feed the hungry" charity (it's in the name - Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) not a right social wrongs charity.

People giving money to a "feed the hungry" charity expect it to be spent on feeding the hungry, not espousing political viewpoints (Israel, social injustice etc) that the donor may or may not agree with.

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Trollface

@Ben Liddicott

Are you anti-pron?

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Re: Erm... really?

"Why do they need a position on Global Warming? Or Social Justice?"

Because where they used to be privately funded to do things that didn't involve government, Oxfam (and a number of other large charities) are now ghastly, incestuous NGO's, busy lobbying and "advising" government, AND funded by the government through the departments they are lobbying to change the policies of.

So in 2013, guess what proportion of Oxfam income came from government? I'll tell you: 41%, amounting to £159.8m. Politicians (including the current government) and civil servants are still drunk on the levels of endless debt fuelled public spending and waste that Gordon Brown masterminded, and they really think that giving £160m of taxpayer's money to Oxfam is "austerity". I've had a look at a couple of other large charities, and the same is true for them.

Strange how on so many issues government won't listen to the voters, yet are only too happy to listen to the people they are giving taxpayers money to by the bucket load.

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Re: Erm... really?

"Why does a "feed the hungry" charity need to have a position on the Israel/Palestine question?"

Pretty much exactly why a bunch of Student Unions broke away from the NUS over the past 15 years. Their reps got bored of going to the Annual Conference and sitting through days of debates on what the NUS position should be on Israel/Palestine, arms dealing, or other matters broadly irrelevant to students, and only of interest to the few political activists who were practising for a career in national politics.

And paying affiliation north of £60k/yr for the privilege.

They saved their money and poured it into the media departments, sports union, bars and cafe - things that directly improved the facilities available to the students.

The NUS, seeing affiliations dropping are starting to reform before they go bust, but there's a fair few Unions - Southampton at the head of them - who don't see much reason to go back unless it's going to pay for itself (which at the last referendum on rejoining was somewhere to the order of £80k/yr).

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Re: Erm... really?

Similar thing with me, I quit being a union rep in my youth because I thought that the purpose of the local union committee was to look after the needs of the members in that area - instead, we'd spend the whole of the union meeting discussing things like fair trade coffee & whether we should go on a work to rule to support some totally unrelated industry sector who were striking over "only" getting an 18% pay rise that year (this was in the days before sympathy striking was banned, we'd had a rise of around 5% that year)

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Re: Erm... really?

Hmm, downvote. Guess someone from the NUS reads El Reg.

What's wrong? Still smarting from Southampton telling you to bog off. Again. In 2012?

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Anonymous Coward

@Ben

"Why does a "feed the hungry" charity need to have a position on the Israel/Palestine question?"

er.. because some of those hungry, and starved of medical supplies, etc are IN Palestine and being MADE hungry by the Israelis.

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Unhappy

Re: Erm... really?

Not only that, but why do so many charities need a CEO on upwards of £150k p.a.?

Add to that a chief fundraiser on @£95k, and various 'strategists' on anything between £65k and £75k per annum, and I am beginning to have just the teeniest suspicion that our old friend "Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy" is sneaking in here...

Iron Law of Bureaucracy

In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

I recall a certain Scottish university with a strong tradition in science, engineering, and other subjects (the closest it had to an "arty" subject was Landscape Architecture). It had a student association that was not affiliated to the NUS. There were a few occasions during which there were moves to make the linkup with the NUS but these came to naught until the university absorbed an arts college and the average political position moved leftwards.

The male:female ratio of the campus (10:1?) probably had an effect on the political stance. I saw a SNP candidate go down badly at a meeting when they criticised the Falklands War.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

Why does a "feed the starving" charity have a position on "social justice"

Just try to think for a second and you may come up with an answer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

@Ted Treen - You may complain about the amount of money a CEO of a major charity earns, but £150k is much less than in the private sector and I would be the first to complain if they gave the job to someone with no qualifications because they only want minimum wage. They need to have a good CEO because they need someone who understands how a to deal with a large organisation, you don't get this for free.

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Re: Erm... really?

Its quite surprising that so many supposedly intelligent people (I generally think of the readers of this site as intelligent) don't understand the links between global warming, the middle east situation, social justice and hunger.

Does Oxfam really need to just be sending bags of rice to people, and not campaigning and working to prevent the problems that cause hunger in the first place?

Why do places suffer with famine? Lack of food? Not really, no. There's plenty of food to go around. Usually, its some form of social injustice - such as war, discrimination, social inequality etc...

Sticking a plaster on a severed limb never really helps. Nor does shipping bags of rice to hungry people.

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Re: Erm... really?

> So in 2013, guess what proportion of Oxfam income came from government? I'll tell you: 41%, amounting to £159.8m.

Interesting. Was there any breakdown as to how much of that was Gift Aid matching? I ask because I personally would consider Gift Aid matching not to be the government funding the charity as such, and more as an awkward patch to the tax code so that income given to charity is taxed less.

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FAIL

Re: @Ben

"er.. because some of those hungry, and starved of medical supplies, etc are IN Palestine and being MADE hungry by the Israelis."

Repeating lies endlessly doesn't make them true.

There are no restrictions on food and medicine by Israel that affect Palestinians (either Jewish or Arab) in Israel, the PA, Gaza or Israeli controlled areas of Judea and Samaria.

You may just be ignorant, rather than racist, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and say that I think you are confusing what is being done by whom, and when you say Israel, you actually mean Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, all who restrict Arab Palestinians (the Jewish Palestinians have either been killed or kicked out, so no need to worry about them as a group in these places) access to all sorts of basic facilities, including food and medicine.

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Re: Erm... really?

I guess you were wrong in your youth, but of course, we all were at some point. It's called growing up. In your case, you must have realized by now that globalisation means that things like global trade agreements and working conditions at the other side of the world affect your local situation. Now, if you think that unions are not the place to study this and find answers, that's one thing. But if you believe that the political class (or worse, the very rich themselves) are going to even *want* to find answers, you have not lost your youthful naivety. Good for you!

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Re: Erm... really?

Because NGO's in the poverty business got wise in the end to the fact that their delivery of bags of rice to starving people was being used by governments and media to build a false picture of a benevolent Western World when in fact we were busy pillaging developing countries natural resources and skilled professionals, toppling democratically elected leaders and using our development aid to bribe crooked dictators to buy British made munitions and engineering. The NGO's have exposed multiple corruptions at the heart of British government and industry over the decades.

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Re: Sort of agree

I object to Oxfam because of their massive cost base and they meddle in politics.

There is one, and only one, 'Starving Charity' that I support: http://www.dafa.co.uk/

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Re: Sort of agree

...But given the choice of giving money to Oxfam or Christian Aid, it goes to oxfam every time.

Given the choice of giving money to Oxfam or Christian Aid, it goes in my pocket. I don't like charities run as businesses.

There are very few charities which are not part of the problem rather than part of the solution. One honourable exception is the RNLI.

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Re: Erm... really?

"............. never really helps. Nor does shipping bags of rice to hungry people."

I think you'll find that the hungry people in question would disagree

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Re: Erm... really?

@TheFatMan

Sure, at the moment they get the rice. But when they run out again after a few days? Do they spend the rest of their lives living purely off hand outs? Would *you* want to live like that? Or would you want the cause of their hunger to be resolved and not have to take handouts?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

Indeed, Oxfam has done economic modelling which shows that shipping bags of rice to hungry people is a really bad idea.

It is actually far more effective to give them economic power. If they have money, the food will come.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

>> So in 2013, guess what proportion of Oxfam income came from government? I'll tell you: 41%, amounting to £159.8m.

> Was there any breakdown as to how much of that was Gift Aid matching?

Oxfam had a total income of £368 million in 2012/13.

A little over £10 million of this was in Gift Aid.

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Re: Erm... really?

The basic answer is these people have the contacts and do the work to know people who will donate massive amounts of money in terms of time, exposure, cash and resources.

If you went in as the Oxfam CEO for free you have saved them £150,000. But can you get an event together than can raise £3 million for Oxfam?

It sounds mentally high, but there are reasons behind it.

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Re: Erm... really?

No I'm not smarting I am trying to contain my laughter at a self opinionated idiot making a fool of himself in public. Higher education in your case tells me two things, 1) It was wasted on you 2) Facts are absolutely a worthless currency when manipulated by patronising morons. Enjoy.

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(Written by Reg staff)

moderator hat on

Dr Bob Matthews. Stop being abusive, please. This is your one and only warning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

> If you went in as the Oxfam CEO for free you have saved them £150,000. But can you get an event together than can raise £3 million for Oxfam?

The CEO doesn't fulfil that function. They employ 146 people in their marketing division to do this.

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Re: Erm... really?

If they're taking a salary, they are no longer being CHARITABLE.

Bureaucracy top-heavy "charities" are now Non-Governmental Organisations with favourable tax liabilities.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sort of agree

You might also want to look at Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders. They don't have political stances of any kind and accept no money from any government.

The red cross is also worth looking at, thought they do get a bit political. They haven't stooped to having an opinion on Global Warming yet though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sort of agree

Ok, you don't like charities run as businesses, fair enough. Personally I damn well want to know that any charity I give to is run as a business. I don't want feckless but well meaning people spaffing money up the wall in an ill advised and inefficient attemt to do good. I want a cold hard business mind understanding the best place to put the money for the best effect.

Also, if you think the RNLI aren't run as a business, you don't understand the first thing about them. If they weren't run as a business, they wouldn't be able to own and manage millions of pounds of assets, they wouldn't be able to launch the first lifeboat in anything like a timely manner and they wouldn't be able to properly schedule the lifeguards they put on beaches.

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Re: Erm... really?

"Was there any breakdown as to how much of that was Gift Aid matching?"

None. Gift aid is specifically included in the voluntary income side of things, and at a quick glance I don't see that they break down the Grant Aid versus actual donated sums. If we guess that 30% of voluntary income was gift aided, then we're talking about £30m of gift aid coming from the taxman. That wasn't included in my government funding figure, although I personally still see that as government spending because it was paid in tax, and is subsequently directed by the state into the hands of a charity.

I should also point out that the £160m of government funding wasn't just or directly the UK government because it includes other governments, multilateral agencies (all ultimately tax payer funded), Oxfam associate charities with no visibility on their funding. And it doesn't include an £11m contribution from DFID for "partnership programme arrangements". In the round about £160m seems a sufficiently accurate ball park figure for the money that one way or another Oxfam doesn't get from private or commercial donors.

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Re: Erm... really?

It is a problem when charities become overly political, and when they start to pay their executives like bankers. I my view, charity is a good activity, it implies self-sacrifice, not something you do for money. Sure, they could argue that the poor can be helped via politics, but that is somebody else's job, not the charitiy's. And to pay the CEO megabucks is not compatible with acts of charity. Just my view.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

There is an social/economics theory that suggests that famines only happen in despotic states, since otherwise the lack of food causes social unrest that encourages those in power to change thing to fix the situation.

Closest geographic example is the Irish Famine which occurred while Ireland was exporting large quantities of food to England, which undermines the natural disaster/act-of-god storyline that people often find more appealing when it comes to famines.

So, having to "feed the hungry" might be entirely unnecessary if you find another way to offer "relief" from "famine" by altering the social wrongs and injusticies that lead to famines occuring in the first place.

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Re: @Ben

@ James12345

Read/lockup "jewish voice for peace" and I think you will understand what is going on. Your gibberish is completely baseless, biased, and, worse, untrue. JVP are Israeli PALESTINIANS (who have NOT been kicked out) and JEWS (among many others) who want Israel and Palestine to live side-by-side peacefully.

Again, there are quite a few Jews (a majority, in fact) in this group and they clearly claim that Israel is bombing hospitals, poising water supplies etc etc ... Now, they live over there, so I guess they know what they are saying/seeing ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

> If we guess that 30% of voluntary income was gift aided, then we're talking about £30m of gift aid

You are incorrect. They received £53.8 million in "regular giving" which included all the gift aid. About 20% of that would have been the actual gift aid making it about £10 million.

One of the other things Oxfam (and others) do is move money around their associated charities which inflates the non-governmental income. As an example a charity might have a government income of say £40 million. If they then donate £20 million to some of their international branches and receive back £20 million from other international branches their income now appears as £60 million - £40 million from government and £20 million from other sources. Additionally, the £20 million appears as charitable spending.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Ben

> Read/lockup "jewish voice for peace" ... Now, they live over there, so I guess they know ...

From wiki: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) (קול יהודי לשלום Kol Yehudi la-Shalom) is a United States organization ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm... really?

http://voiceofthepersecuted.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/why-the-media-doesnt-cover-jihadist-attacks-on-middle-east-christians/

Wy do we fuss about palestinians when anther ethnic group, middle easern Christains are being extirapated ?

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Re: Erm... really?

Actually it is usually some idiot ideology dating from hundreds to thousands of years old which has "all the answers", and usually involves large scale death for those who don't agree which is responsible for most disasters of any duration.

Natural disasters, which appear to be getting fewer in number - can now be addressed by well organised outfits such as the US Navy (our ships will be along soon if we can get them back from the scrapyard) and transport of food can be arranged by air to anywhere on the planet in around 24 hours.

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Re: @Ben

@ Hans 1

As I said in my first post - Repeating lies endlessly doesn't make them true.

I think it is "your gibberish that is completely baseless, biased, and, worse, untrue".

First of all, it is the former Jewish communities in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt that were being referenced when I said kicked out - read what is written in my post you would have understood. If however you insist that the Jewish Israelis are the source of all evil in the world, any evidence to the contrary will be ignored by you and dismissed.

Now, getting back hungry Palestinians, compare and contrast:

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/15/world/meast/syria-palestinian-refugees-starving/

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=palestinians+starving+in+gaza&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=DQUwU7zrAa3b7Ab3t4DIBg&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1174&bih=752

Regarding living side by side, it has consistently been the majority in Israel who support living in peace side by side with its neighbours. Within the Arab Palestinian community it isn't always the majority view. The level of support of peacefully coexistence is also consistently higher in the Israel community than it is in the Arab one.

JVP is an anti-Israel pressure group and is founded on the principle of removing Israel from the map of the world. I wouldn't take their word as being unbiased if I were you.

Finally, I would be very careful about making unfounded accusations of well poisoning - this is a historical anti-Semitic meme.

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More from .....

..... Tim please.

How about Greenpeace's increasingly militant activism against companies like BP when they fuel their aging and highly polluting ships with BP fuel oil?

As for my own personal view of charities, if they employ people to lobby the government for money and law changes, they are no longer a charity but a quango and should have their charitable status removed. Begging me for money, not paying tax then begging my government for money paid in taxes by me is a slimy practice.

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Re: More from .....

"Begging me for money, not paying tax then begging my government for money paid in taxes by me is a slimy practice."

Two points: Firstly, "not paying tax" is a right given to all charities by the government and suggesting otherwise is disingenuous. Secondly (and I appreciate this is a bit of a rose tinted view) if I run a charity I'm damn well going to make sure I get my money from as many different sources as possible.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More from .....

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and others get around the lobbying issue through slight of hand.

They operate both a charity and a business. The charity gets the donations (and the tax breaks) and pays the business for the use of its office facilities and staff. The business doesn't make a profit (if it did it would just donate it to the charity) so doesn't pay tax and is free to lobby on anything it likes because it isn't a charity.

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