Protect Private Donor Information and Giving in the Ocean State

863 Signatures
Target Name Target Organization
Senate President Paiva-Weed (Senate President)
Dominick J. Ruggerio (Senate Majority Leader)
Dennis L. Algiere (Senate Minority Leader)
Nicholas A. Mattiello (Speaker of the House)
John J. DeSimone (House Majority Leader)
Brian Newberry (House Minority Leader)

Real campaign finance reform fairly discloses those who contribute to a political campaign. New “junk disclosure” laws would unfairly expose to political retribution, many donors to non-political activities of non-political charitable organizations. According to some national legal scholars, the bill could also be unconstitutional.

In Rhode Island, H7147A, sponsored by Reps Edwards, Canario, Messier, Hearn, and Newberry, passed the House Judiciary committee and is scheduled for a full floor vote March 23. H 7147 (and its companion Senate bill – S 2369  sponsored by Joshua Miller – would mandate such ‘junk disclosure’ and is not a good bill.

National legal scholars believe that these bills may be federally unconstitutional, as the privacy of nonpolitical donors to nonprofit organizations has been re-affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

For nonprofit organizations like the center-right Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity and other 501(c)(3)s, this bill could have chilling effects on freedom of speech and association.

Money spent by (c)(3)s on ballot measures is already reported. First, remember that a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization cannot contribute to a candidate or candidate committee, only to ballot measures and only if they report those contribution to the IRS. If a 501(c)(3) contributes to a municipal charter amendment, they already have to report that information to the IRS and they have to report those specific supporting donors to the RI Board of Elections – there is no lack of transparency. 

H 7147 would unfairly expand reporting of completely unrelated donors. It would require any 501(c)(3) that spent $100 or more talking about financial town referenda, meetings, or other municipal charter amendments to report ALL of its donors who give $100 or more.

For example, if the Center wanted to spend $100 on a mailer in support of an amendment to a municipal charter (which is perfectly within our allowances with the IRS), we would have to reveal the name of anyone who gave us more than $100 in the previous year, and file reports of contributions and expenditures EVERY 7 DAYS, even if those donations weren’t in support of the ballot measure.

The $100 threshold sets a hair-trigger on disclosure requirements so that even incidental speech about municipal issues could set in motion onerous, weekly reporting requirements. This bill is not tailored to exposing the major players in local politics; H 7147 also sweeps in those who say nothing at all about municipal issues.

This law is overly broad and will result in people being associated with funding campaigns that they may literally have nothing to do with. You can imagine, for example, a person supporting the Lung Cancer Alliance with a $100 gift in response to a campaign to help prevent teenage smoking. But, if the Lung Cancer Alliance decides to contribute to a municipal charter amendment that would ban e-cigarettes, even if the person has not agreed to allow her money to be spent on that initiative, her name would be listed as a donor associated with that campaign.

This isn’t real campaign disclosure, it’s “junk disclosure” that actually gives people false information about donors that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, and serves only to harm nonprofits and their donors.

Understanding who is spending money to influence elections is one thing, but the broad way that this bill is written would invade the privacy of people who are supporting regular charitable work and not trying to influence elections at all.

Every American has the right to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation. Giving the government the names and addresses of people who support general charities will invade people’s privacy and expose them to recrimination for their beliefs.

Please sign the petition to send a message to the leaders in the Rhode Island House and Senate that this a bad bill that will have chilling effects on freedoms of speech and association.

The Petition

Protect private giving and donor information; Reject RI H7147 and S2369;

I am opposed to H7147 sub A & S2369; I ask you to vote against these bills that would turn over to the government the private information of nonpolitical donors and expose them to political retribution! Please act today to support private giving in Rhode Island.

It is important to preserve the privacy of nonpolitical donors to all nonprofit organizations!

Money spent on ballot measures is already reported, and these bills would unfairly expand reporting of completely unrelated donors. These bills are dangerous to free speech in Rhode Island, and could have a chilling political effect. These bills could also cause unintended political retribution, and not accomplish their intent.
 
For more information, please read a related policy brief here: www.RIFreedom.org/H7147 .
 
Further, national legal scholars believe that these bills may be federally unconstitutional, as the privacy of nonpolitical donors to nonprofit organizations has been re-affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
Our fundamental freedoms of speech and association are at-risk with these bills.  Please reject H7147 and S2369.

Thank you.

Sign this Petition

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