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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Congressionally Chartered Nonprofit Organizations (“Title 36 Corporations”): What They Are and How Congress Treats Them

Kevin R. Kosar
Analyst in American National Government

The chartering by Congress of organizations with a patriotic, charitable, historical, or educational purpose is essentially a 20th century practice. There are currently some 92 nonprofit corporations listed in Title 36, Subtitle II, of the U.S. Code. These so-called “Title 36 corporations,” such as the Girl Scouts of America and the National Academy of Public Administration, are typically incorporated first under state law, then request that Congress grant them a congressional or federal charter.

Chartered corporations listed in Title 36 are not agencies of the United States, and their charters only rarely assign the corporate bodies any governmental attributes. For instance, the corporation’s debt is not guaranteed, explicitly or implicitly, by the full faith and credit of the United States. The attraction of Title 36 status for national organizations is that it tends to provide an “official” imprimatur to their activities, and to that extent it may provide them prestige and indirect financial benefit.

In recent years, some in Congress have expressed concern that the public may be misled by its chartering process into believing that somehow the U.S. government approves and supervises the corporations, when in fact this is not the case. As a consequence, the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee of jurisdiction instituted a moratorium on granting new charters in 1989. (The Senate generally defers to the House on chartering matters.) On several recent occasions, however, Congress has established Title 36 corporations despite the moratorium.

Date of Report: June 17, 2011
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: RL30340
Price: $29.95

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