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Wealth share Aided by an improving economy, Americans gave at near-record levels last year. In its annual report, the Giving USA Foundation said donations in 2003 by individuals, estates, foundations, and corporations totaled $240.7 billion or 2.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product. The nation's all-time charitable giving high reached 2.3 percent of GDP in 2000. Giving USA attributed last year's increase to a higher household net income, a stronger stock market, and improved corporate profits. Religious organizations received the most contributions, with an estimated $86.4 billion, or 35.9 percent of all the giving. Of the 10 charitable categories documented by Giving USA, only educational organizations and foundations saw a decline in donations from 2002 to 2003. As they see their giving levels climb upward, many charities and other tax-exempt organizations are keeping an eye on Washington, D.C. That's because federal lawmakers are set to assess claims that nonprofit groups are using their tax-exempt legal status as a cover for criminal behavior. "We need reforms to shut down the hucksters who twist the good will and generosity of others for their own personal benefit," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Credit risk Paying bills on time is not always enough to maintain good credit. A recent survey by the Public Interest Research Group found that nearly 80 percent of the credit reports it reviewed contained errors. And one in four included errors serious enough to deny credit or cause the consumer to pay higher interest rates as a potentially risky borrower. With that in mind, consumers are advised to examine their reports from all three credit bureaus-Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union-at least once a year or before applying for new credit. The reports are available without charge in several states, and will be provided free nationwide by late next year. The credit agencies are required to provide consumers with a toll-free telephone number and access to personnel during normal business hours to help resolve mistakes, but the credit bureaus haven't always complied. In 2000, the three agencies paid a total $2.5 million to settle federal allegations that they blocked calls from more than a million consumers. And last year, Equifax agreed to pay an additional $250,000 to resolve allegations that it didn't do enough in 2001 to answer calls from consumers. Balance Sheet » California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is seeking restitution and unspecified damages from Enron Corp. and several subsidiaries for allegedly manipulating market prices during the state's 2000-01 energy crisis and costing Californians billions of dollars. 3» The Bush administration will not create a national do-not-spam registry to discourage unwanted e-mail, fearing it could backfire and become a target list for new victims. The Federal Trade Commission told Congress that senders of unwanted sales pitches might mine such a registry for names. » United Airlines lost its bid for $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees last week, a blow to the nation's second-largest airline as it tries to emerge from bankruptcy. The Chicago-based airline has been operating under bankruptcy protection for 18 months. Rising fuel prices will cost the company $750 million more than it expected. » Sprint Corp. said Wednesday it would eliminate 1,100 jobs due to increasing competitive pressures in the long-distance market. Competitors AT&T and MCI have said they won't lose long-distance business over price, meaning revenues are likely to drop across the industry. Sprint has cut more than 22,000 jobs in the last two years.

Dan Perkins Dan is a digital production assistant for WORLD. He is a University of Kansas School of Journalism graduate and joined WORLD in 2004. Dan resides in Lawrence, Kansas.


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