On April 25, the Indiana General Assembly passed HB1212, a bill prohibiting state and local governments from requesting or disclosing nonprofit donors’ personal information. The bill defines personal information as data that identifies a person as a supporter or member of a nonprofit organization. It would prohibit government agencies from requiring individuals, contractors, or grantees to disclose this information, and it would penalize violators of these provisions with a fine of no less than $2,500 per violation.
State Rep. Michael Karickhoff (R) and co-author Rep. Elizabeth Rowray (R) introduced HB1212 on Jan. 10. State Sens. Liz Brown (R), Eric Koch (R), and James Buck (R) also sponsored the bill. The bill passed the Indiana House of Representatives 77-21 on Jan. 31. Ten House Democrats and 67 Republicans voted for the bill, while 20 Democrats and one Republican voted against it. The state Senate passed an amended version of the bill 48-1 on March 28, with eight Democrats and 40 Republicans voting in favor and one Democrat voting no.
The House did not accept the proposed Senate amendments, and a conference committee took up consideration of the bill on April 19. On April 24, the House voted 74-20 for an amended version of the bill, with 11 Democrats and 63 Republicans voting in favor. Eighteen Democrats and two Republicans voted no. The Senate again voted 48-1 to pass the bill on April 25, with the same partisan breakdown of votes as it had on initial passage.
Supporters of HB1212 said donor privacy is essential for encouraging charitable giving. Claudia Cummings, the president and CEO of the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, said, “Speaking with our members, it’s clear that donor privacy is one of the basic things that they’re asked when consulting with donors.” Bill sponsor Sen. Liz Brown said, “Donors get to choose how they spend their money — these are their private dollars. They can choose to save it, they can choose to buy something with it, or they can choose to give it. … If those donors were to withdraw from investment in the social sector, what impact would that have?”
Opponents of the bill say it would reduce government transparency. Aaron McKean, legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, said, “These kinds of bills … make it harder to get information about who is trying to influence our government officials or or our elected officials. And that’s information that voters need in order to be able to assess whether the government is actually working on their behalf or if government is working on behalf of those wealthy special interests who are lining their pockets.” Pete Quist, deputy research director at OpenSecrets, said, “When you choose to get involved in politics, you choose to step into the public sphere… it’s the people’s right, the public’s right, to know who is funding their politicians. And that for us, trumps any donor privacy.”
The bill now heads to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R). Indiana has a Republican trifecta, meaning the Republican Party controls the governorship and majorities in both legislative chambers. Republicans have a 70-30 majority in the House and a 40-10 majority in the Senate.