Disclosure Digest: Virginia and Kansas enact donor privacy bills

Virginia and Kansas enact donor privacy bills

Governors in two states enacted legislation this month to prohibit governments from disclosing nonprofit donors’ information. On April 14, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed HB2109, a bill preventing government agencies from requesting or disclosing donor information from individuals or any 501(c) organization. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) signed a similar bill, HB970, on April 11. 

What the bills would do

The Kansas bill enacts the Charitable Privacy Act and amends several sections of the Kansas Open Records Act. The act prohibits a public agency from requiring or requesting personal information from an individual, nonprofit, or “a current or prospective contractor or grant recipient” that would identify a person or entity as a supporter of any nonprofit organization. The act also bars agencies from releasing any personal information already in their possession. Exceptions to the bill include information gathered through a court-issued warrant, a lawful request for discovery of information in litigation, and disclosure required by existing campaign finance laws

The Virginia bill modifies sections 2.2-3705.1 and 2.2-3808 of the Virginia Code. Like the Kansas bill, it bars governments from requiring an individual, 501(c) organization, or a “bidder, offeror, contractor, or grantee of an agency” to provide donor information. The bill also prohibits public agencies from releasing any identifying information associating a person with a nonprofit organization. Nonprofits “established by or for, or in support of, a public body” are exempt from these protections.

While both laws prohibit donor disclosure, they impose different penalties for violations and their approach to donors whose information is exposed. Under the Kansas bill, violations are a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a month of jail time and a $500 fine. The Virginia bill makes violations a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

The Kansas law allows donors whose information is divulged to recover at least $7,500 for each individual case of improper disclosure and requires the state to compensate donors for attorney fees and other legal costs. The Virginia law does not compensate donors in the event of an illegal disclosure. It does enable them to obtain a court order barring the release of any additional information concerning their donations.

Legislative actions

The Kansas House Committee on Judiciary introduced HB2109 on Jan. 21, 2021, and released a report recommending its passage on Feb. 8. On Feb. 11, the House voted 87-36 to pass the bill, and it was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary the following day. The bill remained in committee until Jan. 28, 2022, when the committee recommended passage. The Senate passed the bill with amendments on Feb. 10 in a 35-5 vote. The House did not agree to the Senate amendments and requested a conference committee on March 21. The conference committee released its report on April 1. Both chambers passed the bill, as amended, with a unanimous vote in the Senate and a 92-20 vote in the House. Gov. Kelley signed the bill on April 14. 

Virginia Del. Israel O’Quinn (R) introduced HB970 on Jan. 12, and the bill was referred to the Committee on General Laws. The committee advanced the bill in a 14-7 vote on Feb. 10, and the House of Delegates passed it 55-43 on Feb. 15. In the Senate, the General Laws and Technology Committee voted 14-0 to advance the bill on Feb. 23, and the full chamber unanimously passed it on Feb. 28. Gov. Youngkin signed the legislation into law on April 11 with an effective date of July 1, 2022.

Both Kansas and Virginia have divided state governments. This means neither party controls both legislative chambers and the governorship. Kansas has a Democratic governor while Republicans hold a 29-11 Senate majority and an 86-39 House majority. Virginia has a Republican governor, Democrats have a 21-19 majority in the Senate, and Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the House of Delegates.

Reactions – Kansas

Jon Guze, senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation, said the opposition to privacy bills like HB2109 “is all about controlling the discourse and making people afraid to express their opinions.”

The conference committee report on HB2109 said the Office of the Attorney General determined the bill “could result in additional litigation against the State, requiring a defense by the OAG under the Kansas Tort Claims Act. State agencies that violate the bill’s provisions would be subject to the civil penalties and attorney fees as described in the bill, according to the OAG.”

Reactions – Virginia

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Zack Pruitt said, “Every American should be free to peacefully support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation. HB 970 is an important step in guaranteeing privacy protections for all Virginians in a manner consistent with last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta, which affirmed that the First Amendment’s promise of ‘free association’ includes the right to privacy in financial giving.”

An impact statement on HB970 released by the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget said, “Barring disclosure of personal information will require all agencies covered by FOIA to redact all such information from records they produce. The process of redacting any sensitive information from all documents will be time intensive. In order to meet these new requirements some agencies may require additional personnel, as well software to perform this electronically.”

Other privacy bills 

Ballotpedia is currently tracking 27 privacy-focused bills. In addition to Kansas and Virginia, two other states, Utah and West Virginia, have enacted privacy bills in 2022. Utah HB0040 was enacted on Feb. 11 and prevents the disclosure of donor information to a governmental agency if the donor requests anonymity and the entity receiving the donation is engaged in educational, charitable, or artistic endeavors. West Virginia HB4419 was enacted on March 30 and allows candidate and campaign caucus committees to make unlimited donations to their affiliated state party executive committees or a caucus campaign committee. 

Of the remaining 23 privacy bills, 15 are in committee, one has passed the lower legislative chamber, two have passed both chambers, and five have died in committee. 

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 142 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. Of these bills, 115 are primarily focused on disclosure, and 27 are primarily focused on privacy. To reflect this distinction, the charts in this section and the recent legislative actions below are divided between disclosure legislation and privacy legislation. On the maps 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. 

Donor disclosure legislation

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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

Donor privacy legislation

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

Donor disclosure legislation

  • California AB1819: This bill would prohibit contributions from a foreign government, foreign principal, or foreign-influenced business entity.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 28. 
  • California SB1352: This bill would require elected officials and campaign committees to report contributions in excess of $1,000 online to the secretary of state within 72 hours of receiving the contribution.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 27.
  • Colorado SB237: This bill would require a person making direct ballot issue or ballot question expenditures to report to the secretary of state and disclose their name in certain communications about a ballot issue or ballot question.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 28. 
  • Kansas HB2109: This bill would prohibit a state agency from requesting or releasing the personal information of donors to 501(c) organizations.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on April 14.
  • Michigan SB0788: This bill requires campaign committees to report contributions received by an individual acting on behalf of a committee no later than five days before the closing date of any campaign statement required to be filed by the committee. An independent committee or political committee must include in the name of the committee the name of the person or persons that sponsor the committee, if any, or with whom the committee is affiliated.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 26.

Donor privacy legislation

  • New Hampshire SB302: This bill would prohibit public agencies and bodies from disclosing any information that directly or indirectly identifies a person as a member, supporter, volunteer, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support, to any nonprofit organization and from requiring a nonprofit to disclose information about its donors.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship 
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 25. 

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