I spoke with the CEO of Habitat Nashville today, Chris McCarthy, who told me that after viewing at-Large candidate Charlie Tygard's TV campaign ad, she is not concerned that the title, "Habitat for Humanity" appears with a Habitat Development homeowner who endorses Mr. Tygard. She told me that she would be concerned if "Nashville Area Habitat" had appeared on the commercial, since it would have directly referred to her 501(c)3 organization. Instead, "Habitat for Humanity" is the proper name of the national organization, and thus, appearance of the name could affect the 501(c)3 status of the latter. Ms. McCarthy intends to notify her Executive Board of the commercial nonetheless.
She also emphasized to me that the $50,000 is a very small percentage of Habitat Nashville's total donations, and she underscored the benefits to Metro of the Habitat's Nashville development: increased property taxes, a widened road, and a donated $300,000 public park.
We should not totally ban non-profit earmarks, for the very reasons that Ms. McCarthy gave us. But they should be rare and Mr. Tygard should not use them inappropriately to advance his own campaign, especially at the risk of endangering the organization's non-profit status.