Order Code RL33910
The Charter of the American National Red Cross:
Current Issues and Proposed Changes
Updated May 15, 2007
Kevin R. Kosar
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
The Charter of the American National Red Cross:
Current Issues and Proposed Changes
On April 17, 2007, the House passed H.R. 1681, a bill to revise the charter of
the American National Red Cross (ANRC), by a voice vote. On April 23, the Senate
passed H.R. 1681 without objection by unanimous consent. President George W.
Bush signed P.L. 110-26 into law on May 11.
The law amends the ANRC’s charter to (1) permit the ANRC to conduct
business as the “American Red Cross”; (2) reduce the board of governors from 50
members to between 12 and 25 members by March 31, 2009, and to between 12 and
20 members by March 31, 2012; (3) reduce presidential appointees to the board of
governors from eight to one, with the President appointing the chairman of the board;
(4) abolish local chapter selection of 30 board members and board selection of 12
members; (5) require each board member, except the presidential appointee, to be
elected by delegates at the ANRC’s annual convention; (6) establish a presidentially
appointed ANRC advisory board of eight to 10 members, who would be officers of
executive departments that work with the ANRC; (7) eliminate the requirement that
the number of trustees overseeing the ANRC’s endowment be fixed at nine; (8)
authorize the Comptroller General “to review the corporation’s involvement in any
Federal program or activity that the Government carries out by law”; and (9) require
the ANRC to establish an office of the ombudsman, which would report annually to
Observers both within and outside the ANRC have criticized its governance
structure. They have argued that its board of governors is too large, has too many
members who lack the skills and experience to serve adequately, and frequently
interferes in the operations of the corporation. Congressional interest in the activities
of the ANRC was heightened by the major role it played in providing relief to
persons affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While there were many positive
accounts regarding the ANRC’s relief work, there also were reports of shortcomings
in its performance.
This report provides a brief history of the charter of the ANRC; describes the
recent congressional interest in the ANRC’s governance, operations, and charter;
reviews the ANRC’s governance audit report and proposal to amend its charter; and
describes recent congressional proposals to amend the charter. This report will not
The Charter of the ANRC: A Brief History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Recent Congressional Interest in the Governance, Operations,
and Charter of the ANRC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
The ANRC Advocates Charter Changes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Legislation Enacted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
The 109th Congress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
The 110th Congress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
The Charter of the American National Red
Cross: Current Issues and Proposed
The Charter of the ANRC: A Brief History
A charter is a document issued by the sovereign power — usually the
government — in a nation-state that legally establishes a corporation and its most
basic characteristics, such as its legal purpose, basic governance structure, and means
of public accountability. As such, the charter may be the most fundamental
organizational building block for a corporation. Congress has used charters to create
a variety of corporate entities, such as banks, government-sponsored enterprises,
commercial corporations, venture capital funds, and more.1
The American National Red Cross (ANRC) is a somewhat unusual case.2
Although its charter may be found in Title 36 of the U.S. Code, the organization
bears little resemblance to the other congressionally chartered charitable entities
found there.3 The U.S. Code (36 U.S.C. Subtitle III) classifies the ANRC, and the
ANRC alone, as a “treaty obligation organization.”
The ANRC was first chartered by Congress on June 6, 1900 (31 Stat. 277-280),
for the purposes of fulfilling some of the duties of the United States under the
Geneva Convention of August 22, 1864.4 This treaty, signed by 30 nations at the
CRS Report RS22230, Congressional or Federal Charters: Overview and Current Issues,
by Kevin R. Kosar.
For a history of the ANRC’s charter, see CRS Report RL33314, The Congressional
Charter of the American National Red Cross: Overview, History, and Analysis, by Kevin
Title 36 holds the charters of approximately 100 patriotic, charitable, and historical
corporations and commemorative commissions. CRS Report RL30340, Congressionally
Chartered Nonprofit Organizations (“Title 36 Corporations”): What They Are and How
Congress Treats Them, by Kevin R. Kosar.
While 26 of the 30 nations present at the August 1864 gathering in Geneva, Switzerland,
signed the treaty on August 22, the United States and three others did not. President Chester
A. Arthur signed the treaty on March 1, 1882, and the Senate acceded to it on March 16,
1882 (22 Stat. 940-951). Prior to its federal chartering, the ANRC had been incorporated
under the laws of the District of Columbia in 1881. On the early history of the Red Cross,
see Sarah Elizabeth Pickett, The American National Red Cross: Its Origins, Purposes, and
Service (New York: The Century Co., 1923), pp. 12-14; David H. Burton, Clara Barton: In
Service of Humanity (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), pp. 81-99; and American
time, declared that ambulances and military hospitals and persons attached thereto
were to be considered neutral and “protected and respected by belligerents so long
as any sick or wounded may be therein” (Article I). Congress also charged the
ANRC with serving as the official U.S. disaster relief organization. The ANRC was
continue and carry on a system of national and international relief in time of
peace and apply the same in mitigating the sufferings caused by pestilence,
famine, fire, floods, and other great national calamities (31 Stat. 279).
Since 1900, Congress has re-chartered the ANRC once and greatly amended its
charter at a later time. In 1905, Congress repealed the charter of 1900 and enacted
a new charter in response to complaints regarding ANRC’s handling of funds,
governance structure, and other problems (33 Stat. 599-602).5 Under the 1905
charter, the activities of the ANRC were directed by the “central committee.” It had
18 members, six of whom were appointed by the President. One of these six
appointees served as the chairman of the committee, and the other five were
representatives of the Departments of State, War, Navy, the Treasury, and Justice.
At the ANRC’s urging,6 Congress enacted major amendments to its charter in
1947 (P.L. 80-47; 61 Stat. 80-83). These changes were, perhaps, as dramatic as those
made in 1905. In particular, Congress made significant alterations to the managerial
structure in response to complaints that the ANRC’s board was insufficiently
“democratic.”7 The law replaced the 18-member central committee with a 50-person
“board of governors.” The President appoints eight members of the board, one of
whom serves as the chairman;8 the chapters elect 30 members at the annual ANRC
convention, and these 38 then elect 12 “members-at-large” who are to represent “the
national interests which the corporation serves.” The effects of this change were
significant. The new governance board’s membership differed greatly from that of
the central committee. Federal representation fell from 33% to 16% of members,
while local ANRC chapter representation rose from 33% to 60%. As a result, the
National Red Cross, The American National Red Cross: Its Origins and History, As Shown
by Official Documents (Washington: ANRC, 1898).
The organization had been run, in great part, by its founder, Clara Barton, who
barnstormed to raise money for the organization, traveled to disaster areas, and dispensed
funds. At the close of the 19th century, her leadership was criticized and challenged by
another person, with the result being the eruption of a schism and an internecine battle for
control over the organization. Foster Rhea Dulles, The American Red Cross: A History
(New York: Harper and Brothers; reprint, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Publishers
1971), pp. 19-80.
ANRC, Advisory Committee on Organization, The American National Red Cross Report
of the Advisory Committee on Organization (Washington: ANRC, June 11, 1946).
By “democratic,” the ANRC meant that the board should have a larger membership and
that its composition should have a higher percentage of members who were drawn from the
local chapters of the organization. A more representative board was what the ANRC
desired. See Dulles, The American Red Cross, pp. 531-538
The ANRC’s charter designates the presidential appointee as both the chairman and the
“principal officer of the corporation” (36 U.S.C. 300104(a)(1)(A)).
governance board of the ANRC is more democratic than it was previously, but it may
reflect less the positions, perspectives, and interests of the federal government.
Since 1947, Congress has made modest alterations to the ANRC’s charter.9
Thus, the ANRC charter of today is largely the same as it was after the 1947
The current ANRC charter establishes the basic purposes of the organization,
one of which is serving as a disaster relief organization for the United States (36
U.S.C. 300102). The U.S. government and the ANRC also have signed separate
agreements that specify the organization’s particular responsibilities in response to
disasters.10 The ANRC is a signee to the Department of Homeland Security’s
(DHS’s) National Response Plan (NRP). The NRP provides the framework for a
federal governmental response to “national incidents” and assigns to signatories their
responsibilities under the NRP’s several “emergency support functions” (ESFs). The
other participants in the NRP include federal agencies — such as the Department of
Defense and the National Transportation Safety Board — as well as a private
umbrella group, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
(NVOAD).11 Currently, the ANRC has responsibility under ESF-6 to serve as one
of the two primary agencies that coordinate the provision of mass care, housing, and
human services after disasters.12 The ANRC is the only non-governmental entity
designated in the NRP as a primary support agency.13
The ANRC also serves as a “support agency” for other ESFs, including the
following: ESF #3 (“public works and engineering”), ESF #5 (“emergency
management”), ESF #8 (“public health and medical services”), ESF #13 (agriculture
and natural resources”), ESF #14 (“long-term community recovery and mitigation”),
and ESF #15 (“external affairs”).14 In addition, a “memorandum of understanding”
between the ANRC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
See ANRC, “The Federal Charter of the American Red Cross,” pp. 5-7, at
[http://www.redcross.org/museum/history/charter.asp]. The most recent codification (Jan.
19, 2004) of the ANRC charter is at [http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3001.txt].
The ANRC also has disaster relief agreements with other federal agencies, such as the
Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
NVOAD coordinates efforts by various private organizations in response to disasters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of DHS shares this responsibility
with the ANRC. See U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Response Plan
(Washington: GPO, Dec. 2004), ESF #6-5, at [http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/
Under the revised National Response Plan to be issued by DHS by June 30, 2007, the
ANRC will no longer serve as a primary support agency for ESF-6. FEMA will assume this
role, and the ANRC is to become a support agency. See David Garraty, Acting Director of
Recovery, FEMA, “Letter to Joseph C. Becker, Senior Vice President, Preparedness and
Response, American Red Cross,” Feb. 21, 2007.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Response Plan, p. ESF-vi.
outlines the areas of mutual support and cooperation in disaster response and
recovery operations in the event of a Presidentially declared disaster or
emergency under the Stafford Act, or in the performance of respective roles
under the National Response Plan.15
Recent Congressional Interest in the Governance,
Operations, and Charter of the ANRC
Several media reports of disputes between the ANRC’s management and its
board of governors appeared in 2001.16 Reportedly, for example, President
Bernadine Healy resigned her position after two years on the job, saying that she had
been forced out by the board.17 Her successor, Marsha J. Evans, served a little more
than three years before resigning in December 2005.18
Critics of the organization have argued that the governance structure of the
ANRC discourages those who serve as its president and chief executive officer
(CEO)19 from having long tenures.20 They point out that in the past seven years, the
ANRC has had three chief executives and three interim executives.21 Leaders of the
ANRC, they say, inevitably find themselves at odds with a board dominated by local
chapter representatives, who lack the experience that is required to oversee a large
corporation and who are protective of local chapter interests. Reportedly, in 2001,
FEMA and ANRC, Memorandum of Understanding Between the Federal Emergency
Management Agency and the American National Red Cross, May 30, 2006, p. 2.
David Barstow, “In Congress, Harsh Words for Red Cross,” New York Times, Nov. 7,
2001, p. B1.
Deborah Sontag, “Who Brought Down Bernadine Healy?” New York Times Magazine,
Dec. 23, 2001, at [http://www.nexis.com]; and Fran Lewine, “Red Cross Chief Quits, Says
She Was Forced Out,” CNN.com, Oct. 26, 2001, at [http://edition.cnn.com/2001/US/10/26/
Jack Maguire has served as the interim president and CEO since January 2006.
The chairman of the board should not be confused with the president and CEO. The
former is an appointee who may be removed only by the President (36 U.S.C. 300104). The
charter does not provide for a president and CEO of the ANRC. Rather, this officer is a
creature of the ANRC’s bylaws established under the authority provided at 39 U.S.C.
300104(c)(2). Under the bylaws currently in effect, the “The President and CEO of the
Corporation shall be nominated by the Chairman and shall be elected by the Board of
Governors. The President and CEO shall be the chief executive officer of the Corporation
and shall be responsible for carrying into effect the policies and programs adopted or
approved by the Board of Governors.” ANRC, Bylaws of the American National Red Cross
(Washington: ANRC, May 2005), p. 14, [http://www.redcross.org/images/pdfs/bylaws.pdf].
Bill Nichols, “Legislators Have Critical Eye on Red Cross,” USA Today, Jan. 30, 2006,
p. 3A; and U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Chairman Charles Grassley, “Grassley
Urges Red Cross to Improve Governance, Respond to Volunteers’ Concerns,” press release,
Feb. 27, 2006.
Ian Wilhelm, “Charity at a Crossroads,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Jan. 12, 2006,
David T. McLaughlin, who chaired the board of governors from 2001to 2004, voiced
the opinion that the ANRC’s board could be reformed by amending the ANRC’s
charter to reduce the size of the board and by requiring candidates for board
membership to have relevant qualifications for the position of governor.22
Congressional interest in the activities of the American National Red Cross was
heightened by the major role the ANRC played in providing relief to persons affected
by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.23 While there were many positive accounts
regarding the relief work of the ANRC, there also were reports of shortcomings in
its performance. Questions were raised about the practicability of the federal
government’s reliance on a volunteer organization to respond to mass disasters.24
There were complaints of racial insensitivity by ANRC volunteers toward disaster
victims.25 The ANRC was criticized for miscounting the number of Hurricane
Katrina evacuees who were residing in hotels.26 ANRC relief funds, reportedly, were
given to persons who did not qualify for aid.27
The 109th Congress began its examination of the governmental and private
sector response to Hurricane Katrina and the ANRC’s role less than two weeks after
Hurricane Katrina struck.28 The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs held hearings on September 8 and 14, 2005.29 On September
Sontag, “Who Brought Down Bernadine Healy?”
Previously, Congress had examined the ANRC’s activities in response to the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001. For example, see U.S. House of Representatives, Committee
on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Management, Integration, and Oversight, An
Examination of Federal 9/11 Assistance to New York: Lessons Learned in Preventing
Waste, Fraud, Abuse, and Lax Management, committee print 109-C, 109th Cong., 2nd sess.,
(Washington: GPO, 2006).
Editorial, “Re-examining the Red Cross,” New York Times, Dec. 4, 2005, p. 11. This
editorial called for congressional hearings on the Red Cross’s role in responding to
Jacqueline L. Salmon, “Red Cross Bolstering Minority Outreach,” Washington Post, Dec.
5, 2005, pp. A1, A10.
Jacqueline L. Salmon and Spencer S. Hsu, “A Big Cut in Katrina’s Hotel Bill,”
Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2005, p. A8.
Eric Lipton, “Money Flowed to City Spared Worst of Storm,” New York Times, Nov. 20,
2005, pp. 1, 22; and Jacqueline L. Salmon, “Fraud Alleged at Red Cross Call Centers,”
Washington Post, Dec. 27, 2005, p. A2.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama,
on August 29, 2005. See National Weather Service (NWS), Service Assessment, Hurricane
Katrina, August 23-31, 2005 (Silver Spring, MD: NWS, June 2006), at
[http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/assessments/pdfs/Katrina.pdf], p. 1.
U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs,
Roundtable Discussion: Hurricane Katrina, hearing, 109th Cong., 1st sess., Sept. 14, 2005,
S. Hrg. 109-266 (Washington: GPO, 2006). See also U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Recovering from Hurricane Katrina: The
Next Phase, hearing, 109th Cong., 1st sess., Sept. 14, 2005, S. Hrg. 109-399 (Washington:
15, the House of Representatives established a “select bipartisan committee” to
investigate the preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina (H. Res 437).
Before the year’s end, the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Committee on
Ways and Means also had held a hearing on the response of the ANRC and other
charities. Additionally, the Senate Committee on Finance announced that it would
undertake a review of the ANRC’s governance and performance.30 In 2006,
Congress continued to review the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Representatives of the ANRC testified before Congress, and the organization’s relief
activities were discussed.31 Some Members of Congress openly expressed an interest
in the ANRC’s charter and its possible effects on the management and operations of
The ANRC’s disaster response duties and activities were scrutinized further in
studies and reports. The House select bipartisan committee reported that the ANRC
had raised more than $2 billion for the relief operation, assisted 1.2 million families,
and served 52 million meals or snacks to hurricane survivors. However, the report
criticized the ANRC for an “inadequate logistics capacity” and “disorganized shelter
process.”33 A report produced by the minority staff of the House Committee on
Homeland Security criticized the quality and timeliness of the ANRC’s relief
assistance to hurricane victims in “economically disadvantaged areas and minority
In an interim report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that
the ANRC and FEMA had difficulties coordinating their activities to provide the
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Oversight, To
Review the Response of Charities to Hurricane Katrina, hearing, 109th Cong., 1st sess., Dec.
13, 2005, Ser. No. 109-52; and U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Chairman Charles
Grassley, “Grassley Questions Red Cross Board on Its Practices, Effectiveness,” press
release, Dec. 29, 2005.
For example, U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and
Pensions, Answering the Call: The Response of Community-Based Organizations to the
2005 Gulf Coast Hurricane, hearing, 109th Cong., 2nd sess., Mar. 7, 2006, S. Hrg. 109-440
(Washington: GPO: 2006).
Stephanie Strom, “Senators Press Red Cross for a Full Accounting,” New York Times,
Dec. 30, 2005, p. A17; Jacqueline L. Salmon, “Red Cross Leadership at Issue,” Washington
Post, Dec. 30, 2005, p. A4; and U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, “Grassley Questions
Red Cross Board on Its Practices, Effectiveness,” p. 2.
U.S. Congress, House Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and
Response to Hurricane Katrina, A Failure of Initiative: Final Report of the Select Bipartisan
Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, 109th
Cong., 2nd sess., H.Rept. 109-377 (Washington: GPO, 2006), pp. 343-344. Copies of the
report, the “additional views” (i.e., minority views) report, and transcripts of hearings held
by the committee are at [http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/creports/katrina.html].
U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Democratic Staff, Trouble Exposed:
Katrina, Rita, and the Red Cross: A Familiar History, report, Dec. 15, 2005, at
relief services stipulated under the National Response Plan’s ESF-6.35 Two reports
of the representatives of other nations’ Red Cross organizations faulted the ANRC’s
relief and logistical management.36 The ANRC itself reported that there were
“weaknesses” in its responses to the gulf coast hurricanes of 2005, saying it
recognized the need to more effectively create and sustain local partnerships;
incorporate the application of new technology; pursue staff diversity; apply
comprehensive internal controls; and modify its service delivery in an everchanging environment.37
Generally speaking, the problems described in above-cited media accounts,
Congressional hearings, studies, and reports appear to have been operational, not
governance-related.38 The problems involved the actions of local ANRC volunteers,
the use of volunteers in mission-critical managerial positions, the ANRC’s limited
ability to scale itself up to respond to a disaster of great magnitude, and assorted
coordination problems between ANRC staff and FEMA, as well as state and local
governmental agencies. The ANRC has reported that it has taken actions to address
these problems, such as improving its logistics, increasing supply stockpiles in states
especially at risk of hurricane strikes, and improving local chapters’ partnerships with
community groups and local governments.39 Additionally, since Hurricane Katrina
struck, the ANRC and FEMA have attempted to improve the coordination of their
relief efforts by signing a new memorandum of understanding and altering the
ANRC’s responsibilities under the NRP.40
Government Accountability Office, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Coordination between
FEMA and the Red Cross Should Be Improved for the 2006 Hurricane Season, GAO-06-712
(Washington: GAO, June 2006).
One of the reports described ANRC relief and logistics management as “well intentioned
but volunteer amateurs.” M. Goodhand, British Red Cross, “Mission Report, Hurricane
Katrina, 2005,” memorandum, Sept. 15, 2005, p. 2. See also Thomas Reiss, International
Committee of the Red Cross, “Mission Report Montgomery + Mobile Alabama - Hurricane
Katrina,” memorandum, Sept. 28, 2005.
ANRC, From Challenge to Action: American Red Cross Actions to Improve and Enhance
Its Disaster Response and Related Capabilities for the 2006 Hurricane Season and Beyond
(Washington: ANRC, June 2006), p. 3.
This assessment appears to be shared by the ANRC. Jack Maguire, the interim president
and CEO of the ANRC, told a reporter, “The issues with Katrina were really based on the
size and scope of what we had to deal with in Katrina and were not related to governance.”
Stephanie Strom, “Red Cross to Streamline Board’s Management Role,” New York Times,
Oct. 31, 2006, at [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/31/us/31redcross.html].
Ibid., pp. 14-22.
Garraty, “Letter to Joseph C. Becker, Senior Vice President, Preparedness and Response,
American Red Cross”; and FEMA and ANRC, Memorandum of Understanding Between the
Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American National Red Cross, p. 2.
The ANRC Advocates Charter Changes
On February 17, 2006, the board of governors of the ANRC voted to authorize
and commission an audit of its governance.41 It established an “Independent42
Governance Advisory Panel” and asked it to “carefully examine Red Cross
governance ... and to provide current examples of ‘best practices’ in for-profit and
nonprofit corporations.”43 According to the ANRC, the panel was to focus its
inquiries on the following topics:
“the size and composition of the Board of Governors, participation
by and independence of Governors and the process for selecting
candidates for the Board;
“the organization and functioning of the Board of Governors,
including the composition, structure and roles of the Board’s
“the roles and relationships of the Board of Governors and
“the Board of Governors’ oversight of the governance practices of
the local chapters; and
“the relationships and lines of reporting between the Audit
Committee of the Board of Governors, the outside auditor, and the
internal audit function, including the whistleblower process as it
applies to Red Cross employees and volunteers, as well as
constituencies served by the Red Cross.”44
ANRC, American Red Cross Governance for the 21st Century: A Report of the Board of
Governors (Washington: ANRC, Oct. 2006), p. 19, at [http://www.redcross.org/report/
The members of the panel were not ANRC employees and volunteered to produce the
report. However, they did not work independently of the ANRC to produce it. The report
states that during the course of its preparation, panel members held meetings which included
ANRC board members and senior executive staff. At these meetings, the “progress of the
audit as well as emerging themes” were discussed. Additionally, the panel “regularly
briefed the [board’s] Governance Committee on the status of the audit. The Board also
formed a small group of members to work with the Governance Committee and the panel.”
Ibid., p. 23.
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Chairman of the ANRC Board of Governors, “Board
Recommends Changes to Red Cross Governance,” memorandum, Oct. 30, 2006.
ANRC, “Recitals and Resolutions for Consideration of the Board of Governors for the
American National Red Cross,” Oct. 27, 2006, in ANRC, American Red Cross Governance
for the 21st Century, Exhibit C, p. 2.
The panel delivered a report to the board of governors,45 and on October 30,
2006, the board released to the public a more than 150-page report, American Red
Cross Governance for the 21st Century: A Report of the Board of Governors.46
According to the report, the ANRC had “authorized and commissioned an audit” of
the ANRC’s governance
in light of the increased numbers of catastrophic domestic and international
events in 2004 and 2005, and with a view toward continuing the legacy of the
Red Cross and strengthening its position to meet the unprecedented challenges
of the 21st century (including terrorism, natural and man-made disasters, and the
need for a safe blood supply).47
The report contained chapters that examine the aforementioned subjects and two
others not required by the board of governors — “governance oversight of local Red
Cross chapters” and “enhanced transparency of governance practices.” The report
addresses governance issues rather than operational issues.
Attention was devoted to governance rather than operational subjects, and an
effort was made to refrain from addressing matters more appropriately handled
by management. For instance, while inquiries were made about structural and
reporting relationships among finance, treasury and internal audit personnel and
the outside auditor, no effort was made to conduct a substantive review of
financial reporting, or accounting or internal audit procedures. While inquiries
were made about hotline procedures, no substantive evaluation of specific hotline
or whistleblower complaints was made. Allegations of theft, mismanagement or
According to the chairman of the board of the ANRC, to “achieve the transformational
changes the Board envisioned, the Governance Committee requested that an Independent
Governance Advisory Panel be created, with the assistance of independent counsel, to
provide the Board of Governors its substantial expertise and knowledge of best practices in
governance. Working collaboratively with the Independent Governance Advisory Panel, the
Governance Committee advised the Board of improvements and enhancements that it could
consider. These recommendations, accompanied by the historical governance practices of
the Red Cross and an analysis of best practices in non-profit and for-profit governance,
formed the basis of a draft report that was reviewed and deliberated upon on October 27,
2006, by the Board of Governors.” Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, “A Letter from the Chairman
of the Board of the American Red Cross,” in ANRC, American Red Cross Governance for
the 21st Century, second page of the report.
The report of the panel as delivered to the board was not made available to the public. It
is unclear whether that report differs substantially from the report approved by the board.
The approved version appears to have had two documents appended to it that were not
included in the “draft” report — a “resolution of the board of governors” that was adopted
on October 27, 2006, and a “governance committee report of recommendations and
approved actions,” the latter of which included proposals for amending the ANRC’s charter.
See ANRC, American Red Cross Governance for the 21st Century, pp. 145-147 and 149-156.
ANRC, American Red Cross Governance for the 21st Century, pp. 2-3. This statement
would appear to connect the need for governance reform to ANRC performance in the Gulf
fraud (whether in connection with various disasters or otherwise) likewise were
not within the scope of the audit.48
The report provided an analysis of the history of the ANRC’s charter and current
managerial best practices. It included dozens of recommendations for improving the
governance of the ANRC. Generally speaking, the panel favored making many
changes through ANRC governance via alterations to the corporation’s bylaws, rather
than through amendments to its charter. The rationale for this approach was not
stated in the report.
Perhaps to the surprise of some critics of the board of governors,49 the report
stated that the “prevailing view among those interviewed in connection with the
Governance Audit was that chartered unit-elected Board members understand that
their duties as Board members run to the national organization and they act
accordingly.”50 Nonetheless, the report faulted the current board of governors, citing
“structural, cultural, and historical factors [that] have blurred the distinction between
governance and management functions at the Red Cross.” There was, according to
the report, “a lack of clarity about the role of the board [of governors].”51 The report
offered extensive recommendations on measures that might be taken to improve the
ANRC’s board of governors, including reducing its size and improving its
composition by changing the selection process to favor persons with the skills and
experience to prepare them for board membership. The panel also recommended
establishing a “National Leadership Council” in order to provide local chapters with
a forum for their ideas and concerns, and creating a presidentially appointed “Cabinet
Council” of eight to 10 officials of U.S. government departments and agencies.52
The same day that the report was released, the ANRC announced that its board
of governors had “unanimously approved a series of recommendations for
transformational changes in an effort to modernize its 60-year-old governance
structure, and to enhance the Board’s ability to support the critical mission of the Red
Cross in the 21st Century.”53 Specifically, the ANRC stated that it would seek four
major changes to its charter that would
Ibid., p. 24.
Reportedly, former ANRC President Bernadine Healy has said that many of the members
of the board “feel their role is to protect the chapters.” Wilhelm, “Charity at a Crossroads,”
Ibid., p. 32.
Ibid., p. 31.
Ibid., pp. 55-57.
The date of this meeting is unclear. The ANRC’s website declares that the board
recommended these changes on October 17th. A press release from the ANRC says the
See, respectively, ANRC website at
board vote occurred on October 27th.
[http://www.redcross.org/services/governance/0,1082,0_234_,00.html]; and McElveenHunter,”Board Recommends Changes to Red Cross Governance,” p. 1.
“focus the Board’s role on governance and strategic oversight,
explicitly delegating to management the responsibilities for
“reduce its size by more than half to between 12 and 20 members by
March 31, 2012, given its revised function;
“create a single category of Governors, eliminating the distinction
between how members are selected; [and]
“transition seven of the Presidentially appointed Governors into a
newly created Cabinet Council that will be advisory in function.”54
Thereafter, the ANRC reported meeting with at least one Member of Congress to
discuss charter reform.55
The 109th Congress
On December 5, 2006, a bill (H.R. 6343) was introduced in the House by
Representative George Radanovich that proposed amending the charter of the ANRC.
H.R. 6343 was referred to the House Committee on International Relations, but was
not considered before the end of the 109th Congress. H.R. 6343 included many of the
alterations proposed by the ANRC.56 It would have
permitted the ANRC to conduct business as the “American Red
reduced the board of governors from 50 members to between 12 and
25 members by March 31, 2009, and to between 12 and 20 members
by March 31, 2012;
reduced presidential appointees to the board of governors from eight
to one, with the President appointing the chairman of the board;
abolished local chapter selection of 30 board members and board
selection of 12 members;
required each board member, except the presidential appointee, to be
elected by delegates at the ANRC’s annual convention;
established a presidentially appointed ANRC advisory board of eight
to 10 members, who would be officers of executive departments that
work with the ANRC; and
For example, see ANRC, “Red Cross Chairman Confers with Senator Grassley’s Office
on Proposed Governance Changes: Organization Has Asked Congress to Act Quickly to
Amend Its Congressional Charter,” press release, Nov. 15, 2006, at
The “findings” portion of the bill stated, “Recommendations from the [ANRC]
Governance Report calling for amendments to the Congressional Charter [of the ANRC] are
set forth in this legislation” (H.R. 6343, Sec. 2(3)).
eliminated the requirement that the number of trustees overseeing
the ANRC’s endowment be fixed at nine.
The bill also included two charter amendments not advocated by the ANRC.57
It would have (1) authorized the Comptroller General “to review the corporation’s
involvement in any Federal program or activity that the Government carries out by
law”; and (2) required the ANRC to establish an office of the ombudsman, which
would report annually to Congress on “any trends and systematic matters ...
confronting the corporation.”
The 110th Congress
On February 16, 2007, S. 655 was introduced in the Senate by Senator Charles
Grassley and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. S. 655 was nearly
identical to H.R. 6343 from the 109th Congress, the two bills differing primarily in
the arrangement and wording of their “Findings” sections. Also, S. 655 placed text
regarding “effective governance and transparency” from the “Findings” section of
H.R. 6343 into a “Sense of Congress” subsection.58
The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on revising the charter of
the ANRC on March 14, 2007. On March 26, H.R. 1681, a bill identical to S. 655,
was introduced by the chairman of the committee, Representative Tom Lantos. That
day, H.R. 1681 was referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee. On March 27, H.R.
1681 was reported by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs by a voice vote
(H.Rept. 110-87). It remained identical to S. 655 except for two amendments, which
had been offered by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. The first amendment added
text to the “Findings” section of the bill to note that it was in the national interest that
“the chapters of the [the ANRC] are geographically and regionally diverse.” The
second amendment added the following text to the bill’s “Sense of Congress”
In the “recommendations and approved actions” attachment to its governance audit report,
the governance committee said that the ANRC should “consider” establishing an
ombudsman position on its own authority. ANRC, American Red Cross Governance for the
21st Century, p. 155. The ombudsman proposal did not appear in the ANRC’s red line
document, which outlines its preferred amendments to its charter.
The text reads: “It is the sense of Congress that — (1) charitable organizations are an
indispensable part of American society, but these organizations can only fulfill their
important roles by maintaining the trust of the American public; (2) trust is fostered by
effective governance and transparency, which are the principal goals of the
recommendations of the Board of Governors in the Governance Report and this Act; (3)
Federal and State action play an important role in ensuring effective governance and
transparency by setting standards, rooting out violations, and informing the public; and (4)
while The American National Red Cross is and will remain a Federally chartered
instrumentality of the United States, and it has the rights and obligations consistent with that
status, the American National Red Cross nevertheless should maintain appropriate
communications with State regulators of charitable organizations and should cooperate with
them as appropriate in specific matters as they arise from time to time.”
While the American national Red Cross is and will remain a Federally chartered
instrumentality of the United States, and it has the rights and obligations
consistent with that status, the American National Red Cross nevertheless should
maintain appropriate communications and collaborations with local, community,
ad faith-based non-profit organizations, including those organization that work
with minority communities.
Neither of the two bills’ “Findings” sections justified the proposed changes to
the ANRC’s charter as a response to the corporation’s performance during the Gulf
hurricanes of 2005. Rather, the bills’ stated intention was to “create a more efficient
governance structure of the American National Red Cross and to enhance the Board
of Governors’ ability to support the critical mission of the American National Red
Cross in the 21st century” (S. 655, Section (a)(3); and H.R. 1681, Section (a)(3)).
Both S. 655 and H.R. 1681 contained lengthy “Findings” sections that affirm
that the ANRC is an “instrumentality of the United States” (Section 2). This section
of the bills also stated that it is in the “national interest” that the role and
responsibilities of the board of governors as “a governance and strategic oversight
board” be clarified. Specifically, Section (2)(a)(5) of the bills stated that it is in the
“national interest” that the “areas of responsibility” of the ANRC be outlined to
(A) reviewing and approving the mission statement for The American National
(B) approving and overseeing the corporation’s strategic plan and maintaining
strategic oversight of operational matters;
(C) selecting, evaluating, and determining the level of compensation of the
corporation’s chief executive officer;
(D) evaluating the performance and establishing the compensation of the senior
leadership team and providing for management succession;
(E) overseeing the financial reporting and audit process, internal controls, and
(F) holding management accountable for performance;
(G) providing oversight of the financial stability of the corporation;
(H) ensuring the inclusiveness and diversity of the corporation;
(I) providing oversight of the protection of the brand of the corporation; and
(J) assisting with fundraising on behalf of the corporation.”
S. 655 and H.R. 1681 would not have enacted these changes by statute. Rather, they
would have had the ANRC make these changes through amendment of its bylaws.
Section 2(a)(6)(A) of S. 655 and H.R. 1681 stated that the selection of members
of the board of governors is a “critical component of effective governance” for
ANRC. It declared that it would be in the “national interest” that the selection
process require that a candidate for nomination to the board be nominated by a
committee of the board of governors, which would take into account the expertise,
skills, and experience of the nominee. A majority of the whole board then would
have needed to vote in favor of the person before he or she might stand for election
at the annual convention. As with the role and responsibilities of the board, S. 655
would have had the ANRC make the changes to the election process through
amendment of its bylaws.
On April 17, 2007, the House passed H.R. 1681 by a voice vote. On April 23,
the Senate passed H.R. 1681 without objection by unanimous consent. President
George W. Bush signed P.L. 110-26 into law on May 11.