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Charity by phone can be expensive

Local editorials

Monday's ruling gives states some clout, but the onus is still on the giver

You won't stop getting charitable solicitations from telemarketers during dinner, but they can't lie to you.

That's the gist of a Supreme Court ruling Monday that said the First Amendment doesn't protect charitable solicitors who intentionally deceive potential donors.

That might seem like a no-brainer, but it strengthens the hand of states like Oregon that seek to protect their residents from unscrupulous telemarketing. A spokesman for the Oregon Department of Justice said the ruling would make it easier for the state to enforce its laws regulating phone solicitations.

The unfortunate fact is that, while many telephone campaigns benefit deserving charities, the act of soliciting donations is a big for-profit business across the country. It's not unusual for solicitation firms to take 80 percent of what they collect and turn 20 percent over to the charity.

That may seem excessive, but it's perfectly legal. And for cash-strapped nonprofit organizations it can be a way to generate some income without devoting scarce staff to making phone calls.

— Those who donate to charities, however, would prefer that more of their money actually be used for charitable purposes. A lot more.

The best way to ensure that is to give directly to the organizations you want to benefit, not through a for-profit company that calls you at home and asks for a donation.

Monday's ruling allows states to take fund-raisers to court if they lie or mislead donors about where the money goes. But it doesn't require them to reveal how much they get to keep.

The bottom line: The law can provide only so much protection. The real responsibility lies with the consumer.

The last thing we want to do is to discourage charitable giving. It's more important now than ever. But those giving to charity have to watch their budgets, too, and that means getting the most bang for their charity dollar.

And that means giving directly to organizations who need the help, not giving in to a beseeching phone call at the dinner table.

So long, Snuff

The headline said, He'll be missed, and in the case of Snuffy Smith, those words are very true.

The Monday death of the former Ashland High School principal at Rogue Valley Medical Center was announced in the Wednesday paper. He was 77.

Smith was a popular figure during his 34-year tenure with the Ashland School District, 28 of those years as principal at Ashland High.

Alumni of Ashland High School felt a bond with the longtime administrator, even when they had been gone from the school for several years. Their graduation from Ashland High gave them the right to call Smith Snuff, the nickname on a nickname that he became known as.

Smith became a teacher in the years when male college graduates often came to those jobs as former athletes who became coaches. Smith was a standout on three of Southern Oregon College's best football teams in the late '40s. He was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 1995.

He also played baseball and coached that sport at the high school and for the American Legion.

There's no question that Smith was a skilled administrator who put together a good staff that was able to fulfill its teaching mission. Former students at Ashland High think of Smith fondly.

He really will be missed.