Disclosure Digest: Nebraska lawmakers consider bill limiting disclosure of nonprofit donor information

Last month, we highlighted three states (Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee) considering bills that would bar public agencies from publicly disclosing identifying information about nonprofit donors. This week, we take a closer look at the Nebraska legislation. 

What the bill proposes

Nebraska LB370 would bar any public agency (including state and municipal government units and courts) from:

  • Requiring any tax-exempt nonprofit to provide a public agency with personal information. 
  • Requiring individuals to provide personal identifying information.
  • Publicly disclosing any personal information about a nonprofit donor a public agency might possess. 
  • Requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with a list of the nonprofits the contractor has supported. 

The legislation carves out exceptions for the following situations:

  • Any report required under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act.
  • Any report or disclosure “by a public agency regarding testimony received a public hearing conducted by such public agency.” 
  • A lawful warrant, subpoena, or other court order.
  • Any “lawful request for discovery of personal information in litigation,” if both of the following criteria are met: 
    • The person requesting the information demonstrates a “compelling need for such information by clear and convincing evidence.” 
    • The person requesting the information “obtains an order barring disclosure of such personal information to any person not named in the litigation.” 

Nebraska LB370 does not specify penalties for violations of the law, specifying only that a person alleging a violation “may be entitled to appropriate injunctive relief and damages.” 

Arguments   

There has been no media coverage of arguments for or against this bill. However, here’s what we have seen for similar bills in other states. 

In 2018, Michigan lawmakers approved SB1176, which is similar to LB370

In an op-ed for The Detroit News, Sean Parnell, vice-president of public policy for the Philanthropy Roundtable, wrote: “Michiganians are no stranger to anonymous giving, whether it’s the tens of millions of dollars given to support the Kalamazoo Promise or the numerous small anonymous gifts made through sites like GoFundMe.com. The Personal Privacy Protection Act ensures these and countless other acts of kindness can remain private if the giver wishes, while doing nothing to undermine Michigan’s laws regarding disclosure of campaign donations or punishing fraud by nonprofits. If Michigan wants to continue to encourage philanthropic giving, passage of this bill should be a priority…”

The Campaign Legal Center’s Erin Cholpak opposed the Michigan bill, writing: “While other states have been working to close loopholes that have allowed the increasing role of dark money in election campaigns, SB 1176 would codify those loopholes as enforceable law in Michigan. … And even if SB 1176 ultimately exempts campaign finance disclosure requirements from its broad disclosure ban, the bill will still make it easier for Michigan lawmakers to hide any conflicts of interest and could facilitate a rise of pay-to-play politics by shielding such arrangements from public scrutiny.”

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vetoed SB1176. Similar legislation was also introduced last year in Iowa, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. The Utah and West Virginia bills were enacted. 

Legislative status   

Sen. Rita Sanders (R) introduced LB370 on Jan. 13. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, which has scheduled a hearing for March 11. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on June 10. 

Political context: The Nebraska Senate is the nation’s only unicameral state legislature. Although the legislature is formally nonpartisan, members affiliated with the Republican Party control a majority of seats. The governor of Nebraska is also a Republican.

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 20 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Recent legislative actions

For complete information on all of the bills we are tracking, click here

  • Nebraska LB370: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • On Feb. 4, the Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing for March 11.
  • New Hampshire HB105: This bill would require that political contributions from domestic or foreign limited liability companies be allocated to their individual members for the purposes of campaign finance reporting.  
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • The House Election Law Committee held a public hearing on Feb. 5. An executive session is scheduled for Feb. 12.
  • Rhode Island H5422: This bill would require any nonprofit that provides transportation, housing, meals, or other amenities to elected officers or candidates for elective office to report those actions as donations under the state’s campaign finance laws.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • The bill was introduced and referred to the House State Government and Elections Committee on Feb. 5.

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