Florida legislators introduce bills on donor privacy


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Florida legislators introduce bills on donor privacy

Republican lawmakers in the Florida Legislature introduced two versions of the Personal Privacy Protection Act, H1547 and S1848, which would prevent the disclosure of nonprofit donor’s identifying information. Both bills prohibit a government agency from requiring a person or organization to release certain personal information and would penalize the release of any personal information an agency already possesses.

Differences in scope

Although the two bills have a similar function, they differ slightly in their scope. The House bill would protect corporations, associations, and nonprofit organizations from disclosing information while the Senate bill focuses solely on 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. 

Additionally, the House bill defines personal information as “any compilation of data that directly or indirectly identifies a person as a member, supporter, volunteer, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to any entity.” The Senate bill defines personal information as “any compilation of data that directly or indirectly identifies a person as a member of, supporter of, volunteer for, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to any entity exempt from federal income tax under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.”

Reactions

State Rep. Toby Overdorf (R), who is sponsoring H1547, said, “Many of the donors want to stay anonymous, or they do (give) a tremendous amount of money and they don’t need to let everybody know how much money they’re giving to certain organizations.”  Overdorf said his bill would not prevent investigations into any illegal actions. “I have every confidence that if there was a criminal intent or a criminal investigation, that a good prosecuting attorney would be able to gain access to the donors associated with it. This does not stop that in any way,” Overdorf said

Joseph Gruters (R), the sponsor of S1848, said he would consider expanding the bill’s scope to include 501(c)(4) organizations: “I am always open to any suggestions. It is part of the process. It is interesting, I thought this was going to be a simple, easy bill, and all of a sudden it is a firestorm.”

Sen. Gary Farmer (D) said the bills are “the worst type of legislation that eats at the core of our democratic process.” Jenna Grande, the press secretary for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit group that describes itself as “fighting for an ethical, accountable, and open government,” said, “By making this legislation over-inclusive, the Legislature would deny the public legitimate investigations into fraud and corruption. When it comes to understanding how organizations with public influence operate, it’s imperative their financial records are accessible and transparent.” 

First Amendment Foundation attorney Virginia Hamrick said the legislation functions as a public records exemption bill, which requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass, but is not drafted as one and so only needs a majority vote. “It doesn’t look like a public records exemption bill and it doesn’t follow the state’s requirement for enacting a public records exemption, but it acts as one. It prevents the release of information that an agency has, and would have to give up under the public records law,” Hamrick said

Anna Massoglia, manager of editorial content and investigations at OpenSecrets, said the bills are part of a larger wave of privacy legislation introduced after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, which struck down a California policy that required nonprofits to disclose their donors’ identities to the state’s attorney general. Massoglia said, “the language in this bill is similar to the language we are seeing in other areas.” Overdorf said his bill was a “preemptive way of … being in compliance with the Supreme Court case.” State legislators across the country have introduced at least 13 other privacy bills in the past year. 

Florida has a Republican trifecta, meaning the Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the state legislature. Republicans have a 78-40 majority in the Florida House and a 24-15 majority in the Senate.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 84 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. 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

  • Alaska HB234: This bill would eliminate contribution limits on individuals, groups, and other entities who make independent expenditures.
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Jan. 18
  • Alaska SB155: This bill would prohibit a candidate for governor or lieutenant governor from soliciting or accepting contributions for an election in which they are not a candidate.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Jan. 18. 
  • Kansas HB2495: This bill would prohibit a state agency from requesting or releasing the personal information of donors to 501(c) organizations.  
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Jan. 19. 
  • Kentucky HB241: This bill would allow the Transportation Cabinet and the Energy and Environment Cabinet to raise money from a governmental agency, individual, nonprofit organization, or private business for the Adopt-a- Highway Litter Program or other statewide litter programs. These contributions would be treated as restricted funds and would not be subject to state disclosure restrictions. 
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee Jan. 20.
  • Mississippi HB1126: This bill would prohibit any government official from soliciting or accepting contributions from an individual or nonprofit corporation for conducting state or local elections in the state. Instead, all costs and expenses related to conducting elections shall be paid for with public funds.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Jan. 17.
  • Mississippi SB2577: This bill would repeal the monetary threshold for reporting campaign contributions. It would also require candidate committees to report each person or political committee who makes a contribution to the reporting candidate or political committee during the reporting period.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Jan. 17.
  • Mississippi SB2576: This bill would prohibit a candidate or candidate’s political committee for nonpartisan judicial office from accepting a contribution before the date of the election for which the candidate is seeking to be elected. 
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Jan. 17.
  • Nebraska LB1139: This bill would prohibit a 501(c)(12) corporation from making a contribution for the purpose of (a) campaigning for or against the nomination or election of a candidate, (b) campaigning for or against the qualification, passage, or defeat of a ballot question, or (c) supporting or opposing the introduction, enactment, or executive approval of any legislation or legislative resolution.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Jan. 19.
  • Virginia HB1302: This bill would require campaign committees to disclose the identifying information of all individuals whose contributions are bundled.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Jan. 21.
  • Virginia SB318: This bill would broaden the scope of campaign advertisement disclosure requirements to include electioneering communications. It would also require advertisements that are independent expenditures or support the passage or defeat of a referendum to disclose the names of the sponsor’s three largest contributors in a disclaimer.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Jan. 18.



About the author

Ethan Rice

Ethan Rice is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.