U.S. House passes donor disclosure requirements as part of larger election policy bill

U.S. House passes donor disclosure requirements as part of larger election policy bill    

On March 3, the U.S. House of Representatives approved HR1, legislation that would expand donor disclosure requirements for corporations, unions, and nonprofit groups making expenditures in federal elections. It is now pending in the U.S. Senate.

What the bill would do

Under Title IV, Section 4111, of HR1, any covered organization (such as a corporation, labor union, or 501(c) nonprofit) spending more than $10,000 on campaign-related expenses in a federal election cycle would be subject to regular reporting requirements. Each campaign finance report would have to include the following information:

  • The organization’s name and principal place of business. A corporation would provide a list of its owners, including names and addresses.
  • The amount of each campaign-related expenditure exceeding $1,000, including the name and address of the recipient.
  • A certification by the organization’s chief executive officer that campaign-related expenditures were “not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with or at the request or suggestion of a candidate, authorized committee, or agent of a candidate, political party, or agent of a political party.”
  • For all donors contributing $10,000 or more in an election cycle, the name and address of the donor, the date and amount of the contribution, and the aggregate amount given by the donor during the election cycle covered in the report.

Organizations do not have to disclose contributions from donors who specify that they do not want their contributions used for political purposes.. HR1 also suspends these reporting requirements “if the inclusion of the information would subject [the donor] to serious threats, harassment, or reprisals.” 

HR1 does not focus exclusively on donor disclosure regulations. It would also implement a number of changes to voter registration, absentee/mail-in voting, early voting, and redistricting policies. 


According to the Brennan Center for Justice, which supports HR1, these donor disclosure provisions are necessary “to curb dark money, counter foreign interference in U.S. elections, and make it harder to sidestep campaign contribution limits.”

The lack of donor disclosure deprives voters of critical information about who is trying to influence them and what those spenders want from the government. It is donor disclosure, as the Citizens United court itself pointed out, that allows voters to determine whether elected leaders “are in the pocket of so-called ‘moneyed interests.’”

The Heritage Foundation says that these provisions would “impose onerous legal and administrative compliance burdens and costs on candidates, citizens, civil groups, unions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations.”

Many of these provisions violate the First Amendment, protect incumbents, and reduce the accountability of politicians to the public; its onerous disclosure requirements for nonprofit organizations would subject their members and donors to intimidation and harassment—the modern equivalent of the type of disclosure requirements the U.S. Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama (1958) held violated associational rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Legislative history, and what comes next   

HR1 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 4 and debated on March 2. The House approved HR1 by a vote of 220-210 on March 3, with all but one present Democrat (Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson) voting in favor and all present Republicans voting against it. The bill was sent to the U.S. Senate on March 11. 

Political context: The U.S. Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris (D), as president of the Senate, casts the decisive vote in the event of a tie, giving Democrats an effective majority, but not a filibuster-proof one. 

The term filibuster describes any effort to block Senate action on a bill by speaking at length, introducing multiple procedural motions, or engaging in other obstructive tactics. Under the Senate’s principle of unlimited debate, a filibuster can, in theory, extend debate on an issue indefinitely. To prevent this, and to end a filibuster, Senate rules allow for the invocation of cloture, which closes debate on an issue and forces a vote. It takes 60 votes in the Senate to invoke cloture. 

Some Democrats have proposed eliminating or reforming the filibuster in order to pass HR1 and other legislation. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “I support discussing any proposal that ends the misuse of the filibuster as a weapon of mass obstruction. If the Senate retains the filibuster, we must change the rules so that a senator who wants to bring our government to a standstill endures — at least — some discomfort in the process. We need new rules that actually promote debate.” However, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have both expressed resistance to this idea. Manchin said, “Everybody’s talking, there’s so many different ideas out there. They’re all talking. And that’s it, there’s nothing wrong with it, that’s healthy when you want to talk about everything. But the bottom line is, you can’t get rid of the shoulder. … You cannot get rid of the filibuster unless your intention is to destroy the Senate.”

It is unclear whether Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would support eliminating or reforming the filibuster in order to aid passage of HR1. Schumer said, “We Democrats … believe we need big, bold change. We hope our Republican colleagues will work with us to produce that change. We will try to get them to work with us. But if not, we will put our heads together and figure out how to go, and everything is on the table.”

On March 17, Schumer and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D) and Amy Klobuchar (D) introduced S1, the companion bill to HR1, in the Senate. It has not yet been assigned to a committee, and no Senate hearings have yet been scheduled.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 35 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

  • Idaho H0245: This bill would prohibit foreign contributions, independent expenditures, and electioneering in Idaho election campaigns.
    • Sponsorship not specified.
    • The Senate State Affairs Committee reported the bill favorably on March 19.
  • Illinois HB3735: This bill would require a political committee to include a list of the committee’s top contributors (i.e., those who give $50,000 or more) on specified advertisements and communications.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • The bill was assigned to the House Ethics and Elections Committee on March 16.
  • Iowa HF309: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Sponsorship not specified sponsorship.
    • A Senate subcommittee reported the bill favorably on March 16.
  • Montana SB162: This bill would redefine “electioneering communication” to exempt any “communication by a religious organization exempt from federal income tax when compliance with [state campaign finance laws] would burden the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practice.”
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • The bill was tabled in the House State Administration Committee on March 18.
  • Rhode Island S0620: This bill would revise the definition of a “business entity” under the state’s campaign finance laws to include nonprofits.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended the bill be held for further study on March 18.
  • Tennessee HB0159: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • The House Civil Justice Committee scheduled a hearing on the bill for March 24.
  • Tennessee SB1608: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • The Senate State and Local Government Committee scheduled a hearing on the bill for March 23.
  • Wyoming SF0153: This bill would prohibit state and local governmental entities from requiring any person to provide nonprofit affiliation information or otherwise compel the release of nonprofit affiliation information.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • The bill died in committee on March 19.

Thank you for reading! Let us know what you think! Reply to this email with any feedback or recommendations.