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At The Non-Profit Bar

History is replete with famous rivalries. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. Each has its own story that rocked the world. The rivalry between California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer may not be as well known, but it certainly has rocked the non-profit world.

It seems Lockyer was in a race against the headline-grabbing Spitzer to pass a Sarbanes-Oxley-like law that would clean up the financial shenanigans in the non-profit sector. He succeeded. California's Non-Profit Integrity Act became effective Jan. 1, 2005. Spitzer's own effort is still on the legislative drawing board in Albany, N.Y., perhaps because he was busy putting corporate executives in jail and announcing his candidacy for governor.

But things could go in another direction if New York and other states think they've been one-upped by California and decide to pass their own laws to reform the non-profit sector. Such legislative machismo would inevitably lead to greater demands on Congress to sort it all out with a national corporate governance law for non-profits.

That might be a good thing, depending on your regulatory philosophy. Or, California might find itself in the same position regarding non-profits that Texas is now in regarding school textbooks. Because Texas buys the books for all of its public schools, publishers have no choice but to conform their national editions to the Lone Star State's sometimes peculiar take on history, science and everything in between.


Bruce D. Collins

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