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Up through the 1970's, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) was a relatively non-controversial program in terms of the charities allowed to participate. Growth in the number of participating national charities was slow -- from 23 in 1969 to only 33 in 1979.

In the late 1970's, public policy advocacy groups, legal defense funds, and other organizations succeeded through lower court litigation in entering the CFC. The case that opened the doors to these types of groups was Natural Resources Defense Council v. Campbell in which the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the definition of a human health and welfare charity was too vague and ordered the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to allow various groups to participate in the CFC. OPM, the successor organization to the U.S. Civil Service Commission, assumed regulatory authority over the CFC in 1978.

Significant changes to the CFC regulations in April, 1980 went a long way toward expanding participation in the CFC and resolving a number of other problems. Regulations issued in 1982 by OPM Director Donald Devine also addressed CFC organization. They formally recognized the role and responsibilities of the local groups of Federal officials that manage the campaigns -- Local Federal Coordinating Committees (LFCC's) -- and introduced the concept of Principal Combined Fund Organizations (PCFO's) -- local federated fundraising organizations appointed by LFCC's to administer the local campaigns.

Responding to a court order permanently enjoining OPM from excluding legal defense and advocacy groups from the CFC because of their "indirect" support of health and welfare or their lobbying/advocacy activities, Director Devine in April 1984 opened the CFC to basically any 501(c)(3) charity and permitted write-in designations.

In July 1985, however, the Supreme Court upheld President Reagan's Executive Orders, holding that the exclusion of advocacy, legal defense and other non-health-and-welfare groups is constitutional, as long as it is done even-handedly, without discrimination for or against any particular political viewpoint. In 1986, OPM revised its regulations consistent with the President's Orders.

Under the Hoyer-Hatfield Amendment to the Continuing Resolution for FY 1986, however, Congress declared that OPM could not issue the regulations in final form and implement them. Congress directed OPM to either disregard the content of the 1982 and 1983 Executive Orders or reissue the regulations used in the campaigns in 1984 and 1985. OPM reissued the 1984 regulations and administered the 1986 and 1987 CFC under these interim rules.