May 11, 2007

Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said he was delighted that the President today signed into law the American Red Cross Governance Modernization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1681), which Lantos co-authored with the committee’s ranking member, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

“With the recent tornado in Kansas, and flooding and disastrous fires elsewhere, we are reminded afresh of the crucial role the Red Cross plays in disaster response,” Lantos said. “This legislation will help promote the smooth and effective leadership of the Red Cross, the better to help Americans in their times of deepest need. The American Red Cross deserves to maintain the good name it has developed through these good works, and it will be in an even better position to do so once the reforms are in place.”

The new law changes the governance structure of the American Red Cross, making it more accountable to the employees and volunteers of the organization and to the American people. The American Red Cross had undergone considerable criticism for its response to the 9/11 tragedy and the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005.

Under the new law, the number of members on the American Red Cross board of governors is reduced from 50 to at the most 25. It requires governors of the Red Cross to be elected solely by delegates to the organization’s annual meeting. It also shifts responsibilities for day-to-day operations from the board to Red Cross management. And it aims to improve the accountability and transparency of the Red Cross by establishing an office of the ombudsman, who will report to Congress, to raise the profile of the whistleblower process for employees and volunteers.