TagDisclosure Digest

Disclosure Digest: Federal lawsuit challenges Alaska donor disclosure law

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022. 

Federal lawsuit challenges Alaska donor disclosure law

On April 7, five Alaska residents and several independent expenditure groups filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Public Offices Commission in U.S. district court challenging donor disclosure requirements enacted through a 2020 ballot measure. 

Background

Alaska voters approved Alaska Ballot Measure 2, an indirect initiated state statute, on Nov. 3, 2020. Before the measure’s enactment, section 15.13.040(j)(3) of Alaska’s code required entities to disclose the name, address, principal occupation, and employer of each contributor donating more than $250 per year if the contribution was for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election. Section 15.30.090(c) required political communications (such as ads) to feature disclaimers disclosing who paid for the communication and the paying entity’s largest contributors. 

The measure amended the law to require entities contributing more than $2,000 to independent expenditure groups to disclose the sources of the contributions if those funds were derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts. It also required independent expenditure groups’ paid election communications to feature a disclaimer if a majority of the communication’s funding was derived from out of state money. The disclaimer must remain on screen for the entire TV or online communication. The measure also established open primaries and ranked-choice voting in general elections. 

Lawsuit

On April 7, 2022, five political donors and independent expenditure groups including the Liberty Justice Center, the Alaska Free Market Coalition, and Families of the Last Frontier, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that portions of Ballot Measure 2 are unconstitutional and violate the First Amendment. 

In the suit, the plaintiffs said, “Vague, indeterminate, and overly burdensome campaign finance laws that burden everyday people with compliance burdens supporting political and issue entities violate their First Amendment rights.” The plaintiffs also said forcing organizations to disclose their donors could result in “reprisals against them and their business interests in the current climate of cancel culture.” 

The lawsuit also challenged the communication disclaimer requirements. The plaintiffs said, “Compelling speakers to recite a government-imposed script is subject to strict scrutiny, which these provisions cannot survive,” and the “out-of-state disclaimer requirement also unduly discriminates against the First Amendment rights of the non-residents.”

In the final argument of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said the requirements violate the right to free association: “By compelling non-profit organizations to disclose their donors when churches, chambers of commerce, or other groups make choices to support independent expenditure efforts, for multiple layers of groups and donors, the law violates this privacy principle inherent in the freedom of association.”

What comes next

The lawsuit will be heard by Chief Judge Sharon L. Gleason in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska. As of April 18, the court had not announced a hearing date. Alaska Department of Law spokesperson Daniel Cacciatore said the department was reviewing the complaint. Scott Kendall, an attorney for Alaskans for Better Elections, filed a motion to intervene in the case on April 12 and said the group would fight “this baseless suit and defend the reforms passed in 2020.” 

Reactions

Daniel Suhr of the Liberty Justice Center, said, “Our system should be built for everyday people to be able to make their voices heard in the public square to support candidates and causes that they believe in.” Doug Smith, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said, “These overly intrusive requirements will shut down speech in Alaska. We should welcome and encourage debate over important issues in Alaska, rather than impose laws and requirements that deter people from supporting causes they believe in and open them up to political intimidation.”

Jason Grenn, executive director of Alaskans for Better Elections, said, “Alaskan voters made it clear that they want increased campaign transparency and have a right to know who is spending money on their elections. Nothing in ballot measure two violates the first amendment, nor does it limit political speech.” 

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 139 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. Of these bills, 112 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

  • Colorado HB1060: This bill would set limits on contributions to candidates for school district director and require candidates to disclose campaign contribution information to the secretary of state.  
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on April 13.
  • Connecticut HB05455: This bill would prohibit a donor from making a contribution under any name but their own. 
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 12.
  • Connecticut SB00431: This bill would require committees to report referendum spending as an independent expenditure. It would also require committees to disclose donors for certain types of referendum spending.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 14.
  • Kentucky HB740: This bill would require a candidate exempt from filing a campaign finance report to file a 30 day post-election report of receipts and disbursements. It would also require a candidate who is exempt from filing for the primary who advances to the regular election to refile for the filing exemption. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on April 14.
  • Maine LD1782: This bill would prohibit a ballot question committee from making contributions to a candidate or political action committee if some or all of the contribution comes from a business.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on April 11. 

Donor privacy legislation

  • Kentucky HB241: This bill would allow the Transportation Cabinet and the Energy and Environment Cabinet to receive, accept, and solicit contributions 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. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was vetoed on April 11. 
  • Virginia HB970: This bill prohibits government agencies from requesting or disclosing donor information from any 501(c) organization. The bill exempts the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act of 2006 from the privacy requirements.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on April 11.


Disclosure Digest:

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022. 

Oklahoma House passes ballot measure disclosure bill 

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill establishing disclosure requirements for committees supporting or opposing ballot questions on March 21. HB3147 would broaden existing definitions of certain political committees to include groups advocating for or against a ballot question. The bill was introduced on Feb. 7 and sponsored by State Reps. Rob Standridge (R), Kevin West (R), and Kevin McDugle (R).  

What the bill would do

Oklahoma law defines local political committees as “composed of one or more persons the purpose of which is to support the election of a specific candidate.” This definition applies to committees involved in municipal, county, and school board district elections. The law requires committees to file statements of financial interests according to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s established rules. The commission’s website says “County, Municipal and Independent School District or Career Technology District Committees receiving in excess of $1,000 or with expenditures in excess of $1,000 will file reports with the County Election Board, Municipal Clerk or School District Clerk.” These reports must contain the names, addresses, occupations, and employers of donors to the committee. 

HB3147 would expand the definition of municipal, county, and school board district committees to include committees who support or oppose “questions submitted to a vote of the people.” These committees would be subject to the same disclosure requirements as those mandated for committees supporting or opposing a candidate for public office. The bill also directs the Oklahoma Ethics Commission to “develop online reporting processes for the reporting of information required by the County Campaign Finance and Financial Disclosure Act, the Municipal Campaign Finance and Financial Disclosure Act, and the Technology Center District and Independent School District Campaign Finance and Financial Disclosure Act, as funds are available, to develop and maintain online reporting.”

Legislators have introduced bills in at least four states that deal in some way with ballot measure contributions. Illinois HB3541, Maine LD1754, and Missouri HB1505 and HB2891 would implement or increase disclosure requirements for committees promoting or opposing a ballot measure. Illinois HB4927 and Nebraska LB733 would prohibit contributions from foreign nationals to ballot question committees, while Maine LD1782 and Nebraska LB1139 would prohibit contributions from certain corporations and businesses. 

Oklahoma is one of 23 Republican trifectas. The Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the state legislature. 

Legislative actions

After its introduction on Feb. 7, the bill was referred to the House Elections and Ethics Committee. The committee voted unanimously to advance the bill on March 1, and the full House voted 88-4 to approve it on March 21. The bill was referred to the Senate Rules Committee on March 29. The Rules Committee advanced an amended version of the bill in a unanimous vote and referred it to the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 6. The amendments restored the existing definition of a committee as “one or more persons” rather than “two or more persons” and removed proposed changes to notarization requirements for committee statements of organization.  

Reactions

Bill  sponsor Rep. Kevin West (R), said the bill’s focus was transparency. “It’s a level of transparency and I think most Oklahomans appreciate the transparency,” West said, adding, “You never really know. You see a lot of advertising, but you never really know who’s really for or against it and it just gives the citizens one more level to help them determine if they are for or against it.” House Elections and Ethics Committee Chairman Jim Olson (R), who voted for the bill, said “we should always be looking for ways to strengthen our most sacred democratic process by enhancing overall election integrity and transparency to ensure our elections are not victims of the concerning activity we’re seeing in other states.” At the time of this writing, there were no statements available from opponents of the bill. 

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 138 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. Of these bills, 112 are primarily focused on disclosure, and 26 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 SB1352: This bill would require elected officials and campaign committees to report contributions of more than $1,000 digitally to the secretary of state within 72 hours of receiving the contribution. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 6.
  • California SB1360: This bill would require certain political advertisements to identify the top contributors to the campaign committee paying for the advertisement with no minimum contribution threshold.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 4
  • Colorado HB1060: This bill would prohibit a donor from making a contribution under any name but their own. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on April 8.
  • Connecticut HB05455: This bill would require committees to report referendum spending as an independent expenditure. It would also require committees to disclose donors for certain types of referendum spending.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 5.
  • Connecticut SB00431: This bill would require committees to report referendum spending as an independent expenditure. It would also require committees to disclose donors for certain types of referendum spending.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 8.
  • Florida H0921: This bill would prohibit a foreign national from making or offering to make contributions or expenditures in connection with any election held in the state.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on April 6.
  • Kentucky HB740: This bill would require a candidate exempt from filing a campaign finance report to file a 30 day post-election report of receipts and disbursements. It would also require a candidate who is exempt from filing for the primary who advances to the regular election to refile for the filing exemption. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was vetoed on April 8.
  • Louisiana SB473: This bill would require postsecondary education institutions to disclose the source of any foreign gifts. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 6.
  • Maryland HB340: This bill would prohibit a person from running for public office or being the treasurer of a campaign committee if that person has violated campaign disclosure regulations and failed to pay the penalty. The bill would modify penalties for these violations and require prosecution to be instituted within four years of the offense.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 7.
  • Maryland SB15: This bill would allow the state board of elections to impose a civil penalty for failure to report and maintain a record of campaign contributions. It would also prohibit an individual from running for office or becoming the treasurer of a campaign committee if they fail to pay a civil penalty under this section. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on April 7.
  • Oklahoma HB3147: This bill would amend the definition of municipal, county, and school board district committees to include committees who support or oppose ballot measures.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 6. 
  • South Carolina H5194: This bill would prohibit lobbyists from making contributions to candidates for public office.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 5. 
  • Virginia HB492: This bill would require campaign committee treasurers to keep accounts of campaign contributions and expenditures and authorizes the Department of Elections to conduct reviews of a percentage of campaign committees. The Department of Elections would report the results of the reviews to the State Board of Elections, the Governor, and the General Assembly and make them available on the Department’s website.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on April 8. 

Donor privacy legislation

  • 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 passed both chambers on April 8.
  • Colorado HB1156: This bill would exempt candidates from having to file an annual personal disclosure statement if they file their personal disclosure statement within 180 days of Jan. 10.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on April 4.

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



The Disclosure Digest: April 5, 2022

Oregon groups ask state supreme court to reconsider campaign finance ballot measures

In a March 22 filing, three Oregon nonprofit groups asked the Oregon Supreme Court to reconsider its decision on a series of campaign finance ballot measures. On March 18, the court rejected the groups’ request to overturn Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s (D) decision barring the initiatives from appearing on the general election ballot. If the court rejects the groups’ request, the petitioners would have to start the initiative process over.

Background

Honest Elections Oregon, Portland Forward, and the League of Women Voters Oregon filed three versions of the Oregon Campaign Finance Contribution Limits Initiative on Dec. 6, 2021.  The initiatives would limit campaign contributions from individuals, multicandidate committees, political parties, legislative caucus committees, and membership organizations (e.g. unions). Groups would have to disclose the identity of every donor who contributed more than $5,000 in all political advertisements and communications and would also have to identify the people or entities who paid for them. One of the three initiatives would also establish a public campaign financing system where private contributions would be matched with public funds.

On Feb. 9, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) certified the language of the three ballot initiatives. The certification came a day after Fagan rejected the measures, saying they did not include the entire text of the legislation they would modify. Rosenblum’s decision did not undo Fagan’s decision, but it allowed the initiative sponsors to challenge the ruling before the state supreme court without having to start over with new language.

Oregon Supreme Court ruling

In its March 18 opinion, the Oregon Supreme Court refused to overturn Fagan’s decision. “This is not a case in which exceptional circumstances persuade us that the issue that [the petition backers] raise is so novel and significant, and that immediate resolution is so imperative, that we should exercise our discretionary mandamus jurisdiction on an expedited basis.” The justices also said the measures’ supporters “could have begun the initiative process earlier, so that, if the secretary identified deficiencies, [the groups] could have taken timely steps to contest or cure them within the same election cycle.” 

Fagan said of the ruling: “Whether by legislators or through the public initiative process, making law takes time, and the Constitution sets the rule of law,” adding, “[t]here are no shortcuts.” Honest Elections Oregon co-founder Jason Kafoury said, “It’s a sad day for our local democracy. It means millionaires, and billionaires will continue to write six- and seven-figure checks, but hopefully we’ll get this fixed in the next couple of years.” Portland Forward President James Ofsink said, “Secretary Fagan’s interpretation of the Oregon Constitution denies Oregonians their only chance this year to vote on getting big money out of Oregon politics. Moving the bar also creates a high degree of uncertainty for future initiative petitioners.”

What comes next

The justices gave the petitioners the option to file a request for reconsideration, which they did on March 22. In the filing, the groups said, “Future initiative proponents have no guidance as to what form of drafting the ‘full text’ requirement demands. Such uncertainty chills the speech of all those who wish to participate.” If the court reverses its decision, the groups would have to gather 112,020 valid signatures by July 8 in order for the state to certify the initiatives for the November ballot. Otherwise, the petitioners would need to start the initiative process over. Kafoury said if the groups are unable to “move forward with ballot title challenges at the Supreme Court, then we’re toast.”

Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D) said if the measures do not move forward, he would work towards passing campaign finance legislation in the legislature. “I think it’s absolutely legislators’ responsibility to get this done and to send something out to the voters. We’ll see what happens this election cycle but we can’t give up on this. The voters are really clear that they expect reform,” Wagner said. House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D) said, “When we got that news [the measures were rejected] midway through the session, there was no way to really formulate the type of momentum that you need, and thread the needle on a topic that frankly, all 90 members have a different opinion of what that should look like. We’ve been trying to do that for years to try and get that done.”

Between 2010 and 2020, the average ballot initiative certification rate in Oregon was 8.3%. Between 1985 and 2020, 148 initiatives made the ballot and 35.8% were approved.

About the Oregon Supreme Court 

In 2020, Ballotpedia published a study on how state supreme court justices decided the cases that came before them. The Oregon Supreme Court decided 88.7% of all cases it decided in 2020 in unanimous rulings, according to our 2020 study Ballotpedia Courts: Determiners and Dissenters. Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship, also published in 2020, studied the partisan affiliation of state supreme court justices. It found that the Oregon Supreme Court included four Mild Democrat justices and three Strong Democrat justices.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 133 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. Of these bills, 108 are primarily focused on disclosure, and 25 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 SB1360: This bill would require certain political advertisements to identify the top contributors to the campaign committee paying for the advertisement with no minimum contribution threshold.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 31.
  • California SB1439:  This bill would require parties in a license, permit, or other entitlement proceeding to disclose donations of more than $250 made within a year of a decision. It would also require parties in these proceedings to disclose any planned contributions in the year after a decision.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 28.
  • Connecticut SB00431: This bill would require committees to report referendum spending as an independent expenditure. It would also require committees to disclose donors for certain types of referendum spending.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 29.
  • Delaware HB366: This bill would require political committees’ contribution and expense report, provided to the Department of Elections, to include the primary employer and job title of each person contributing to the committee. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 31.
  • Kentucky HB740: This bill would require a candidate exempt from filing a campaign finance report to file a 30 day post-election report of receipts and disbursements. It would also require a candidate who is exempt from filing for the primary who advances to the regular election to refile for the filing exemption. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 30.
  • Maine LD1754: This bill would exempt political action and ballot question committees already registered with the commission from filing the major contributor report. It would also clarify  the enforcement provisions regarding potential violations and the factors the commission must consider for each potential violation.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on March 29.
  • Maine LD1782: This bill would prohibit a ballot question committee from making contributions to a candidate or political action committee if the contributed funds are derived from a business. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill passed the upper chamber on March 31.
  • New Hampshire SB348: This bill would prohibit contributions made on behalf of another individual, from a labor union or affiliate of a labor union, or from an anonymous source. It would also establish maximum limits on contributions made by any single individual or entity.  
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on April 1.

Donor privacy legislation

  • Colorado HB1156: This bill would exempt candidates from having to file an annual personal disclosure statement if they file their personal disclosure statement within 180 days of Jan. 10.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 29.
  • Connecticut HB05222: This bill would repeal the requirement for paid solicitors to submit the text of planned solicitations and remove the ability of the Department of Consumer Protection to inspect contribution records upon request. 
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 30.
  • Kansas HB2495: This bill would prohibit a state agency from requesting or releasing the personal information of donors to 501(c) organizations.  
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill passed the lower chamber on March 29.
  • Kentucky HB241: This bill would allow the Transportation Cabinet and the Energy and Environment Cabinet to receive, accept, and solicit contributions 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. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on March 30.
  • West Virginia HB4419: This bill would remove restrictions on candidate and campaign caucus committees’ donations to their affiliated state party executive committees or a caucus campaign committee.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on March 30.


Disclosure Digest: An overview of the arguments on donor disclosure and privacy

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022. 

An overview of the arguments on donor disclosure and privacy

As part of our coverage of donor disclosure and privacy, Ballotpedia created a taxonomy of arguments supporting and opposinsg each side of the policy debate. The arguments generally focus on three main subject areas:

This issue provides an overview of these arguments and examples from our recent coverage of legislation and court activity. 

Disclosing information to governments

Supporters of disclosing donor information to governments say disclosure limits corruption and foreign influence, minimizes the ability of nonprofits to advance private interests, and benefits nonprofits as an endorsement of their mission. Supporters also say inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information is rare and that disclosure does not deter donations or place an undue burden on nonprofits. Commenting on Minnesota HF3190, a bill that would require organizations making independent expenditures to name their three largest contributors, State Rep. Jamie Long (D) said the bill “does not stop any speech, does not curtail any speech,” and it would “help voters make better informed choices” by allowing them to see who is funding an ad. “If the ad you see is from Minnesotans for Sunshine and Puppies, but it’s backed by somebody with a clear political point of view you would want to know that. Could there be an appearance of corruption? Could there be a financial interest involved? Voters want to know,” Long said.

Opponents of disclosing donor information to governments say it violates free speech rights and rights to free association and privacy. They contend that disclosure rules are a solution in search of a problem and consume resources with no clear benefit or purpose, and the government has other means to combat fraud and corruption. Other arguments opposing disclosure say that governments may unintentionally disclose confidential information, which could lead to donor harassment. In a statement opposing Minnesota HF3190, State Rep. Jim Nash (R) said the bill would put people at risk of “being doxxed by the people who oppose the exercise of free speech” and asked lawmakers to consider “the implications of what happens. An ordinary, everyday business owner who wants to donate to a candidate of their choice and they may happen to be the top donor.”

Disclosing information to the public

Supporters of public disclosure say it increases accountability, deters corruption, and limits the ability of major donors to use nonprofits to advance their own interests. Public disclosure advocates say donor visibility benefits nonprofits as an endorsement of their mission, does not inhibit charitable giving, and does not constrain donors’ constitutional rights to free speech and free association. Other advocates of public disclosure say it’s the donors’ responsibility to stand behind their positions, and disclosure provides the public with information about who is attempting to influence public policy. Regarding Florida’s public disclosure bill, H1547, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington press secretary Jenna Grande said the bill 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.” 

Opponents say it violates the rights of free speech, free association, and privacy, and could subject donors to potential harassment and retaliation. Critics of public disclosure say this inhibits charitable giving, diminishes the ability of nonprofits to achieve their goals, and suppresses controversial or politically unpopular ideas or groups that the public should have the right to be aware of. In a complaint filed with the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin (R) said “compelled disclosure of [an organization’s] donors could lead to substantial personal and economic repercussions for their supporters” and “if their donors are disclosed, their membership and revenue will decline as donors prioritize their anonymity over supporting Plaintiffs’ work.”

Disclosure and political polarization

Those who say limiting donor disclosure causes political polarization believe undisclosed nonprofit spending allows donors to have an outsized influence on American politics, which has eroded the public’s trust in governments and made communications more opaque. Critics of limiting disclosure also say it creates incentives for controversial ideas to spread in the public square. In a 2021 amicus brief filed in the Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra case, attorneys for a group of Democratic U.S. Senators said: “Citizens United opened the door to unlimited political spending by powerful influencers. Rampant violation of that decision’s transparency predicate has allowed such influencers to wield that power anonymously, through dark money expenditures.”

Conversely, those arguing that limiting donor disclosure does not cause political polarization believe it ensures controversial or politically unpopular ideas and causes can be seen and heard in the public square and that nonprofit donor confidentiality is not the source of political conflict. They say political and social polarization exists even when political campaign donations are fully transparent. In its Supreme Court brief in Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra, Americans for Prosperity said: “Historic strides have often been achieved by private groups espousing ideas that others may (at a particular time and place) violently oppose. Our country would be far less just—and the public square less diverse—if Americans could not support causes anonymously.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 132 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. Of these bills, 107 are primarily focused on disclosure, and 25 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 SB1439:  This bill would change the prohibition on contributions from 3 to 12 months following a decision in a license, permit, or other entitlement for use proceeding and remove the exception for local government agencies.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 16.
  • Florida H1359: This bill prohibits the governor, lieutenant governor, or a member of the cabinet from soliciting or accepting a contribution during the 60-day regular legislative session or a special legislative session. It would also require a political committee that is dissolved to dispose of all residual funds and file a report reflecting the disposition of such funds within 90 days of its dissolution. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Florida H1373: This bill would change the contribution threshold requiring a group to file a statement of organization from $5,000 to $1,000 and change the deadline for filing the statement to 24 hours after the end of the qualifying period for the office sought by the candidate. It would also require electioneering communications organizations to disclose the identity of donors, the amount contributed, and the purpose of each expenditure.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Florida H6109: This bill would remove provisions that preempt counties, municipalities, and other local governmental entities from enacting or adopting limitations and restrictions involving certain contributions and expenditures or establishing contribution limits different than those defined under state law. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Florida S1352: This bill would prohibit a foreign national from making or offering to make contributions or expenditures in connection with any election held in the state.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Florida S1836: This bill would change the contribution threshold requiring a group to file a statement of organization from $5,000 to $1,000 and change the deadline for filing the statement to 24 hours after the end of the qualifying period for the office sought by the candidate. It would also require electioneering communications organizations to disclose the identity of donors, the amount contributed, and the purpose of each expenditure.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Kentucky HB740: This bill would require a candidate exempt from filing a campaign finance report to file a 30 day post-election report of receipts and disbursements. It would also require a candidate who is exempt from filing for the primary who advances to the regular election to refile for the filing exemption. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 14.
  • Louisiana SB227: This bill would require an entity applying for state grant funding to disclose the names of foreign donors who contribute more than $50,000 to the entity. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 14.
  • Maryland HB1343: This bill would require a state contractor to file a disclosure statement with the State Board of Elections if the contractor contributed to a nonprofit organization that funds public communications relating to a project in which the contractor has a financial interest.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 18.
  • Michigan HB5910: This bill would set contribution limits for recall committees and require these committees to report contributions over a certain amount. 
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 15.
  • Michigan HB5928: This bill would require committees’ campaign finance reports to be published online and available to the public. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 16.
  • New York S08588: This bill would require political action committees to report contributions exceeding $10,000 in any calendar year to the state board of elections.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 17.
  • Wisconsin AB819: This bill would prohibit referendum committees from accepting contributions from foreign nationals.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 15.
  • Wisconsin SB795: This bill would prohibit referendum committees from accepting contributions from foreign nationals.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 15.

Donor privacy legislation

  • Alaska HB234: This bill would amend political contribution limits so that they do not apply to an individual, group, or nongroup entity contributing to a group or nongroup entity that only makes independent expenditures.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill passed the lower chamber on March 16.
  • Connecticut HB05222: This bill would repeal the requirement for paid solicitors to submit the text of planned solicitations and remove the ability of the Department of Consumer Protection to inspect contribution records upon request. 
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 16.
  • Florida H0617: This bill would exempt donors who contribute to the direct-support organization of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking from public records requirements and provide an exemption from notice requirements for specified meetings. It provides for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption under the Open Government Sunset Review Act.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Florida S0294: This bill would exempt donors who contribute to the direct-support organization of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking from public records requirements and provide an exemption from notice requirements for specified meetings. It provides for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption under the Open Government Sunset Review Act.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Florida H1547: This bill would prohibit a public agency from requiring a 501(c)(3) organization to provide personal information or otherwise compel the release of personal information. This bill would not apply to any report or disclosure required for campaign financing under chapter 106 or lobbying under chapter 11.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Florida S1848: This bill would prohibit a public agency from requiring a 501(c)(3) organization to provide personal information or otherwise compel the release of personal information. This bill would not apply to any report or disclosure required for campaign financing under chapter 106 or lobbying under chapter 11.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill died in committee on March 14.
  • Kansas HB2495: 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 referred to committee on March 16.
  • Kansas HB2579: This bill would allow a candidate for state office to request an exemption from the electronic filing requirement for campaign finance reports.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 18.
  • Louisiana HB170: This bill would allow candidates, officeholders, and political committees to accept contributions in the form of cryptocurrency. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 14.
  • Louisiana HB254: This bill would raise the contribution limit to a candidate for any office to $5,000 and the limit for contributions to a political action committee to $10,000.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 14.

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



Disclosure Digest: Minnesota disclosure bill clears committee

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022. 

Minnesota disclosure bill clears committee

A Minnesota House committee advanced a bill on March 8 that would require nonprofits to disclose donor information for certain independent expenditures. Rep. Jamie Long (D)  introduced HF3190 on Feb. 7 with 12 other Democratic co-sponsors. Sen. Lindsey Port (D) introduced a companion bill, SF3281, on Feb. 21.

What the bill would do

Minnesota law requires groups making independent expenditures to include a disclaimer disclosing the group’s name and either its mailing or web site address. Section 10A.01, subdivision 18 defines independent expenditures as “expenditure[s] expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or local candidate.” Under section 211B.04, subdivision 3, “online banner ads and similar electronic communications that link directly to an online page that includes the disclaimer” are excluded from the disclaimer requirement. 

HF3190 would require organizations making independent expenditures to name their three largest contributors during the year prior to the expenditure being published or becoming public. The bill would remove the exemption for online ads and other electronic communications, subjecting them to the same disclosure requirements as other independent expenditures. 

The bill also redefines express advocacy. Section 10A.01 of the state code currently defines express advocacy as “a communication clearly identifies a candidate or a local candidate and uses words or phrases of express advocacy.” This bill would amend the definition to include a communication which, “when taken as a whole and with limited reference to external events, such as the proximity to the election, is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal advocating the election or defeat of one or more clearly identified candidates.”

The bill was referred to the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee, which held three hearings on it. The committee voted 8-4 to send the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee on March 8. Seven of the committee’s eight Democratic members voted to advance the bill (Rep. Gene Pelowski (D) was absent) along with Republican committee member Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R). The four other Republican members voted no. The House Ways and Means Committee must advance the bill for it to be considered by the full House. 

Minnesota is one of two states with a divided legislature where neither party controls both the upper and lower chambers. The Democratic Party controls the Minnesota House of Representatives and the office of governor, while the Republican Party controls the upper chamber of the Minnesota State Senate.

Legislators in Nebraska, Virginia and West Virginia have also introduced bills that would require groups making independent expenditures to report their top contributors. Like HF3190, Virginia HB489 and SB318 would require organizations to disclose their top three contributors, while Nebraska LB8 and West Virginia SB107 would require groups to identify any person who contributed more than $250. 

Reactions

Long said the bill “does not stop any speech, does not curtail any speech,” and it would “help voters make better informed choices” by allowing them to see who is funding an ad. “If the ad you see is from Minnesotans for Sunshine and Puppies, but it’s backed by somebody with a clear political point of view you would want to know that. Could there be an appearance of corruption? Could there be a financial interest involved? Voters want to know,” Long said. Rep. Ginny Klevorn (D) said, “Free speech is important to all of us, and we want to make sure that we keep free speech front and center. Good healthy campaign finance laws and good healthy election laws make that happen.”

Rep. Jim Nash (R) said the bill would put people at risk of “being doxxed by the people who oppose the exercise of free speech.” Nash, who voted against the bill,  asked the committee to consider “the implications of what happens. An ordinary, everyday business owner who wants to donate to a candidate of their choice and they may happen to be the top donor.” Rep. Jon Koznick (R) said the legislature should be doing more to protect free speech. “You should be working in the opposite direction to instill people’s free speech rights more strongly in how they support different candidates,” said Koznick .

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

We’re currently tracking 128 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. Of these bills, 103 are primarily focused on disclosure, and 25 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 state:

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 SB1352: This bill would require elected officials and campaign committees to report online contributions in excess of $1,000 to the secretary of state within 72 hours of receiving the contribution. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 9.
  • California SB1360: This bill would require certain political advertisements to identify the top contributors to the campaign committee paying for the advertisement without regard to any minimum contribution threshold.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 9.
  • California SB1439:  This bill would change the prohibition on contributions from 3 to 12 months following a decision in a license, permit, or other entitlement for use proceeding and remove the exception for local government agencies.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 9.
  • Colorado HB1060:This bill would set limits on contributions to candidates for school district director and require candidates to disclose campaign contribution information to the secretary of state. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 8.
  • Florida H0921: This bill would prohibit a foreign national from making or offering to make contributions or expenditures in connection with any election held in the state.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on March 10.
  • Georgia SB580: This bill would prohibit political action committees affiliated with General Assembly members from accepting contributions during a legislative session.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on March 9.
  • Idaho S1337: This bill would require any candidate who receives contributions or makes expenditures that total $500 or more to begin filing a monthly report by the 10th day of the month following the month being reported. This requirement would apply to both election years and non-election years. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 8.
  • Kentucky HB301: This bill would require all costs and expenses related to election administration be paid for with public funds and prohibit a state governmental body employee from accepting contributions to assist with election administration unless entered into as a lawful contract.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on March 11.
  • Kentucky HB740: This bill would require a candidate exempt from filing a campaign finance report to file a 30 day post-election report of receipts and disbursements. It would also require a candidate who is exempt from filing for the primary who advances to the regular election to refile for the filing exemption. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 9.
  • Minnesota HF3190: This bill would require entities making independent expenditures to name the three individuals or entities making the largest contribution required to be reported under chapter 10A.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 10.
  • Pennsylvania HB852: This bill would require a nonprofit that expects to make contributions or expenditures of $25,000 or more in a calendar year to a political committee or campaign to file a statement of organization with the Department of State. The nonprofit would also be required to file a report of the source of the 10 largest cumulative payments of $10,000 or more the nonprofit received in the current calendar year from a single person.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 10.
  • Virginia HB492: This bill would require campaign committee treasurers to keep accounts of campaign contributions and expenditures and authorizes the Department of Elections to conduct reviews of a percentage of campaign committees. The Department of Elections would report the results of the reviews to the State Board of Elections, the Governor, and the General Assembly and make them available on the Department’s website.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on March 10.
  • Wyoming HB0049: This bill would increase the penalty for failing to file disclosure reports.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on March 7.
  • Wyoming HB0080: This bill would require all campaigns and political action committees to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on March 9.

Donor privacy legislation

  • Colorado HB1156: This bill would exempt candidates who file their personal disclosure statement within 180 days before Jan. 10 from having to file an annual personal disclosure statement for that year.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 10.
  • Idaho H0746: This bill would exempt corporations organized under the laws of the United States in a parent-subsidiary relationship with a foreign national corporation from prohibitions on foreign contributions.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 8.
  • West Virginia HB4419: This bill would remove restrictions on candidate and campaign caucus committees’ donations to their affiliated state party executive committees or a caucus campaign committee.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on March 12.


Disclosure Digest: Washington AG announces settlement in campaign finance case

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022.

Washington AG announces settlement in campaign finance case

On March 2, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) announced a settlement with a grocery trade group, ending nine years of litigation over the group’s alleged failure to disclose their donors’ identities in a campaign against a 2013 ballot initiative. Under the terms of the settlement, the group will pay a reduced fine in return for accepting responsibility for violating Washington’s disclosure laws and agreeing not to pursue an appeal.

Background

On Nov. 5, 2013, voters rejected the Washington Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure (Initiative 522) 51% to 49%. The initiative would have required foods and seeds containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled. If these foods were not labeled correctly, a penalty of up to $1,000 per day per mislabeled item could have been assessed on the violator.

The Consumer Brands Association, then called the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), spent more than $11 million against the initiative. Ferguson, who took office on Jan. 16, 2013, sued the group in Thurston County Superior Court in October 2013 alleging it had failed to disclose the identities of some of its largest corporate donors, including Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Nestlé. According to Ferguson, the GMA was required to reveal whether it asked members to donate for the specific purpose of opposing the measure under Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act. If so, the GMA was required to register as a political committee and disclose donor names. Ferguson said the association was attempting to shield members from scrutiny for opposing the initiative, which was “precisely the conduct our campaign disclosure laws are designed to prevent.”

Ferguson’s office initially sought a $44 million dollar fine against the group. In November 2016, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch ordered the GMA to pay $18 million after determining that the group intentionally concealed its donors in violation of Washington campaign finance laws. Hirsch also granted the state’s request that it be compensated for legal fees, ordering the GMA to pay an additional $1.1 million. According to the Capital Press, the fine was the largest ever levied against an organization for campaign finance violations in the U.S., exceeding the previous record of $3.8 million in fines that the Federal Elections Commission imposed on the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. in 2006. The GMA appealed the case to the Washington Supreme Court, which granted review of the case on June 4, 2021. 

Washington Supreme Court decision and settlement

On Jan. 20, the Washington Supreme Court upheld the $18 million fine, ruling  5-4 that the state did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of excessive fines. Writing for the majority, Judge Steven Gonzalez (appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) in November 2011) said, “GMA has not shown that the trial court erred in imposing a punitive sanction under the FCPA based on the amount intentionally concealed. We affirm the courts below and remand for any further proceedings necessary and consistent with this opinion.”

The Consumer Brands Association said it would appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that the fine violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Stacy Papadopoulos, the group’s attorney, said “The state’s legal process has been tainted by partisan politics, and the ruling in this case will chill core political speech by legitimate organizations based on their viewpoints. The only winner in this decision is politics – not the law, the facts or the American public.” 

On March 2, Ferguson announced the state would settle the case for $9 million. Of that amount, $3 million would go to charitable organizations working to combat hunger, and $6 million would be deposited in the state’s Transparency Account, which funds the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. As part of the settlement, the Consumer Brands Association would not appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and would formally apologize. 

In 2020, Ballotpedia published a study on how state supreme court justices decided the cases that came before them. The Washington Supreme Court decided 9.1% of all cases it decided in 2020 in 5-4 rulings, according to our 2020 study Ballotpedia Courts: Determiners and Dissenters. Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship, also published in 2020, studied the partisan affiliation of state supreme court justices. It found that the Washington Supreme Court included eight Mild Democrat justices and one justice with an indeterminate affiliation.

Reactions

In a press release, Ferguson said, “Illegal dark money has no place in Washington elections. My office will be relentless ensuring dark money special interests that intentionally violate our campaign finance laws will be held accountable — even if it takes a decade.” The Washington Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision and the risk of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the fine influenced his decision to settle, Ferguson said: “I did not want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this case. To have lost on that issue before the U.S. Supreme Court would have significantly altered our campaign-finance laws.”

In a statement, the Consumer Brands Association said, “We are pleased to successfully settle this nearly decade-old legacy litigation that was inherited by our new team and new organization. Our agreement with the state of Washington not only saves our association millions of dollars, it directs $3 million to hunger relief charities Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest, causes aligned to our industry’s values.” 

As part of the settlement, the group accepted responsibility for violating state law and issued an apology: “The Grocery Manufacturers Association accepts responsibility for failing to disclose donors in a timely manner in a 2013 ballot initiative and failing to register as a political committee in accordance with Washington State campaign finance disclosure requirements. We acknowledge the ruling of the Washington Supreme Court and apologize to the voters of Washington State.”

Public Disclosure Commission Chair Fred Jarrett said, “This was a strong case, thanks in large part to the outstanding work by PDC investigators who uncovered the smoking gun documents. The excellent advocacy of the AGO has brought us to a reasonable resolution. It provides an opportunity for careful investments to support the crucial role of the PDC, as the Legislature intended when it created the Transparency Account just a few years ago, and a contribution to food security in our region.”

According to the Seattle Times, opponents of I-522 raised approximately $22 million, setting the record for the most money ever raised – in support or opposition – for a Washington ballot measure. In 2018, groups opposing the Washington Carbon Emissions Fee Measure (Initiative 1631) exceeded that amount, raising approximately $31.5 million. 

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 118 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. Ninety-seven of these bills are primarily focused on disclosure, and 21 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

  • Florida H0921: This bill would prohibit a foreign national from making or offering to make contributions or expenditures in connection with any election held in the state.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 2.
  • Georgia SB580: This bill would prohibit political action committees affiliated with General Assembly members from accepting contributions during a legislative session.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 1.
  • Idaho S1337: This bill would require any candidate who receives contributions or makes expenditures that total $500 or more to begin filing a monthly report by the 10th day of the month following the month being reported. This requirement would apply to both election years and non-election years. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 1.
  • Idaho S1367: This bill would require the disclosure reports to be publically available on the secretary of state’s website. 
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 4.
  • Indiana SB0388:  This bill would require a postsecondary educational institution to submit a report to the Indiana commissioner for higher education disclosing gifts of at least $50,000 from a foreign source. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on March 1.
  • Kansas SB537: This bill would require state agencies, political subdivisions, state contractors and vendors to disclose certain contracts, gifts or grants received from foreign sources.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on March 1.
  • Kentucky HB301: This bill would require all costs and expenses related to election administration be paid for with public funds and prohibit a state governmental body employee from accepting contributions to assist with election administration unless entered into as a lawful contract.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 3.
  • Kentucky HB740: This bill would require a candidate exempt from filing a campaign finance report to file a 30 day post-election report of receipts and disbursements. It would also require a candidate who is exempt from filing for the primary who advances to the regular election to refile for the filing exemption. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 3.
  • Louisiana SB227: This bill would require an entity applying for state grant funding to disclose the names of foreign donors who contribute more than $50,000 to the entity. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 3.
  • Missouri HB2891: This bill would require corporations and foreign non-profit organizations that make expenditures over $500 in support or opposition to a candidate or ballot measure to file a report disclosing the name and address of the person making the expenditure.  
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on March 1.
  • Utah HB0346: This bill would prohibit a a higher education institution from accepting funding from a restricted foreign entity.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 4.
  • Virginia HB492: This bill would require campaign committee treasurers to keep accounts of campaign contributions and expenditures and authorizes the Department of Elections to conduct reviews of a percentage of campaign committees. The Department of elections would report the results of the reviews to the State Board of Elections, the Governor, the and General Assembly and make them available on the Department’s website.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 2.
  • Wyoming HB0049: This bill would increase the penalty for failing to file disclosure reports.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 1.
  • Wyoming HB0080: This bill would require all campaigns and political action committees to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill passed both chambers on March 4.

Donor privacy legislation

  • Alabama HB432: This bill would provide exceptions to the prohibition on lobbyist contributions to public officials, including allowing lobbyists to make lawful donations to campaigns. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 2.
  • Alaska HB234: This bill would amend political contribution limits so that they do not apply to an individual, group, or entity contributing to a group or entity that only makes independent expenditures.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 2.
  • Kansas HB2495: 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 referred to committee on March 1.
  • Kansas HB2579: This bill would allow a candidate for state office to request an exemption from the electronic filing requirement for campaign finance reports.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 2.
  • Louisiana HB254: This bill would raise the contribution limit to a candidate for any office to $5,000 and the limit for contributions to a political action committee to $10,000.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 28.
  • West Virginia HB4419: This bill would remove restrictions on candidate and campaign caucus committees’ donations to their affiliated state party executive committees or a caucus campaign committee.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on March 1.

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



Disclosure Digest: Idaho legislator introduces bill increasing disclosure requirements

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022. 

Idaho legislator introduces bill increasing disclosure requirements

On Feb. 21, Idaho Sen. Patti Anne Lodge (R) introduced a bill in the Idaho Senate that would require candidates for state office to report contributions over a certain amount in both election and non-election years. Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy (R) is co-sponsoring the bill.

What the bill would do

Idaho law requires candidates to report campaign contributions  and expenditures of more than $1,000 every month during election years. In off years, candidates are only required to report contributions of $1,000 or more within 48 hours of receiving the donation. Local elections in Idaho are generally held in odd years while statewide elections are held in even years. Idaho S1337 would lower the threshold for contribution or expenditure reporting from $1,000 to $500, requiring any candidate receiving contributions or making expenditures over that amount to begin filing a monthly contribution report regardless of which year the contribution occurred. 

Lodge said she introduced the bill after individuals contacted her asking for the change and attributed the requests to recent changes to the Secretary of State’s online campaign finance system. The new system, implemented in January, 2022, allows users to view contributions and expenditures for each candidate as they are submitted. “This legislation was brought to me by several different folks after they started watching the campaign finance as it’s being presented in our new system,” Lodge said

Lodge told the Senate State Affairs Committee the bill would increase the transparency of campaign finance reporting in the state: “This was brought for transparency because elections have become year-round now. It’s for those that are collecting a lot of money and aren’t reporting anything, and then all of a sudden you see that $20 million has been placed in our campaigns and there’s no transparency on it.” The committee held a hearing on the bill on Feb. 25. 

Idaho has a Republican trifecta, meaning the Republican Party controls both chambers of the legislature and the governorship. Republicans have a 58-12 majority in the Idaho House of Representatives and a 28-7 majority in the Idaho Senate

Of the 118 bills Ballotpedia is currently tracking, 26 would modify contribution thresholds in some way. Of these 26 bills, 12 have not progressed beyond being introduced, 13 have been referred to legislative committees, and one is dead. 

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 118 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. Ninety-seven of these bills are primarily focused on disclosure, and 21 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

  • Colorado HB1060: This bill would set limits on contributions to candidates for school district director and require candidates to disclose campaign contribution information to the secretary of state. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 25.
  • Florida H0921: This bill would prohibit a foreign national from making or offering to make contributions or expenditures in connection with any election held in the state.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 24.
  • Idaho S1337: This bill would require any candidate who receives contributions or makes expenditures that total $500 or more to begin filing a monthly report by the 10th day of the month following the month being reported. This requirement would apply to both election years and non-election years. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 22.
  • Indiana SB0134:  This bill would require appropriations of any money donation from a nongovernmental organization to a state agency or local unit of government to be listed in a separate line item in the budget of the state or local unit of government. The budget line item described in subdivision must specify each individual state employee or local government employee, whichever is applicable, whose salary is funded in whole or in part from the donated money.
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was enacted on Feb. 23.
  • Iowa HF2514: This bill would require candidate committees to report the aggregate amount of contributions made by each donor and loans received from any person during the reporting period.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 23.
  • Kansas SB537: This bill would require state agencies, political subdivisions, state contractors and vendors to disclose certain contracts, gifts or grants received from foreign sources.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 23.
  • Maryland SB15: This bill would allow the state board of elections to impose a civil penalty for failure to report and maintain a record of campaign contributions. It would also prohibit an individual from running for office or becoming the treasurer of a campaign committee if they fail to pay a civil penalty under this section. 
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 25.
  • Minnesota SF3281: This bill would require entities making independent expenditures to name the three individuals or entities making the largest contribution required to be reported under chapter 10A to the expending entity during the 12-month period before the expenditure was published or presented to the public
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 21.
  • Minnesota SF3283: This bill would prohibit a candidate or political committee from accepting a contribution if in exchange for the contribution the candidate or committee is granted special access to a meeting room, hospitality area, or other event space where public officials are likely to gather.
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 21.
  • Wyoming HB0049: This bill would increase the penalty for failing to file disclosure reports.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 24.
  • Wyoming HB0080: This bill would require all campaigns and political action committees to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 23.

Donor privacy legislation

  • Connecticut HB05222: This bill would repeal the requirement for paid solicitors to submit the text of planned solicitations and remove the ability of the Department of Consumer Protection to inspect contribution records upon request. 
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 24.
  • Kansas HB2495: 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 referred to committee on Feb. 23.
  • Kansas HB2579: This bill would allow a candidate for state office to request an exemption from the electronic filing requirement for campaign finance reports.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill passed the lower chamber on Feb. 23.
  • Kansas SB429: This bill would allow a candidate for state office to request an exemption from the electronic filing requirement for campaign finance reports.
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 21.
  • Louisiana HB170: This bill would allow candidates, officeholders, and political committees to accept contributions in the form of cryptocurrency. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 24.
  • 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 Feb. 22.
  • Alaska HB381: This bill would repeal the reporting requirements for contributions of more than $2,000. 
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 22.

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



Disclosure Digest: Circuit court dismisses group’s challenge of New Mexico disclosure law

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022. 

Circuit court dismisses group’s challenge of New Mexico disclosure law

On Feb. 15, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging New Mexico’s disclosure requirements for political action committees. Cowboys for Trump (also known as C4T), a group founded by Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin (R), filed the original suit after New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) ordered the group to register as a political action committee or pay a fine.

District court lawsuit

In 2019, Oliver ordered Griffin to register C4T as a political committee or pay a $7,800 fine. Under New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act, political action committees must disclose donors’ identifying information when the committee makes independent expenditures such as paid advertisements endorsing candidates or supporting or opposing a ballot measure. On June 18, 2020, Griffin filed a complaint with the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico arguing that “compelled disclosure of their donors could lead to substantial personal and economic repercussions for their supporters” and “if their donors are disclosed, their membership and revenue will decline as donors prioritize their anonymity over supporting Plaintiffs’ work.”

On Dec. 30, Judge Gregory J. Fouratt dismissed the case, writing the “Plaintiffs have insisted that they do not engage and have no intention of ever engaging in the types of activities that will trigger disclosure under the CRA. Consequently, C4T’s donors have not suffered an injury in fact and are never expected to suffer any such injury.” The court also ruled the group did not have associational standing. Because the group did not make any independent expenditures requiring disclosure, it suffered no injury and could not sue on its members’ behalf. The court gave the group until Jan. 15, 2021, to file an amended complaint. 

Circuit court appeal

Rather than filing an amended complaint with the district court, Griffin appealed the case to the circuit court on April 20. In the appeal, Griffin’s attorney, Colin L. Hunter, argued Oliver used her “enforcement power to trample the First Amendment right to free speech and association of a high-profile ideological opponent” and that the “(mis)use of an unconstitutional law to silence ideological opponents and hinder their ability to associate with one another to amplify their message is contrary to the First Amendments right to free speech and association.” Griffin’s attorney asked the appeals court to reverse the lower court ruling and dismiss the case.

On May 20, New Mexico’s Assistant Attorneys General Neil R. Bell and Amye G. Green filed a brief in support of the lower court’s ruling. They wrote, “Put simply, C4T has not plausibly alleged that its rights have been chilled when it has ‘affirmatively disclaimed’ any intent or desire to engage in the only conduct that would invoke the CRA’s disclosure and disclaimer requirements.”

In oral arguments held on Jan. 21, 2022, C4T attorney Sidney Powell challenged the group’s designation as a political committee, saying, “I think the fact that the registration requirement is imposed on an LLC that simply provides costs for a man to ride his horse across the country carrying a flag is an amazing burden to impose.” Judge Carolyn McHugh, appointed by former President Barack Obama (D),  said the appeal did not challenge the group’s designation as a political committee or the district court’s decision not to address the issue of registration: “I didn’t see anywhere in the briefing to this court where you take issue with the court’s decision to not address the argument. I’d love it if you could point me to where you challenge the district court’s decision that it need not assess whether there was standing for the registration claim.”

The circuit court upheld the lower court ruling on Feb. 15. In the court’s opinion, Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush (R), wrote, “Plaintiffs alleged that they had not made and would not make any independent expenditures that would trigger the reporting or disclaimer requirements. Therefore, compelled disclosure of donor information per those requirements is not plausible. Absent a plausible chance of such disclosure, there can be no chilling effect on any donor’s willingness to donate.” 

“It’s a tough decision and an unfair decision because all I’ve tried doing is supporting Trump and standing up for our freedoms,” Griffin said. State Attorney General Hector Balderas said, “All elected officials and dark money groups in this nation must follow election reporting requirements in order to protect the public interest, and no one is above the law.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 104 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

  • California AB1819: This bill would prohibit contributions from a foreign government, foreign principal, or foreign-influenced business entity.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 18.
  • California AB2528: This bill would require elected officials to file reports electronically with the secretary of state, and these reports would be available for public inspection. 
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 17.
  • 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. 
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 18.
  • California SB1360: This bill would require certain political advertisements to identify the top contributors to the campaign committee paying for the advertisement without regard to any minimum contribution threshold.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 18.
  • California SB1439:  This bill would change the prohibition on contributions from 3 to 12 months following a decision in a license, permit, or other entitlement for use proceeding and remove the exception for local government agencies.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 18.
  • Colorado HB1060: This bill would set limits on contributions to candidates for school district director and require candidates to disclose campaign contribution information to the secretary of state. 
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 17.
  • Kentucky HB301: This bill would require all costs and expenses related to election administration be paid for with public funds and prohibit a state governmental body employee from accepting contributions to assist with election administration unless entered into as a lawful contract.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 18.
  • Maryland HB1343: This bill would require a state contractor to file a disclosure statement with the State Board of Elections if the contractor contributed to a nonprofit organization that funds public communications related to a project in which the contractor has a financial interest.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 15.
  • Maryland SB15: This bill would allow the state board of elections to impose a civil penalty for failure to report and maintain a record of campaign contributions. It would also prohibit an individual from running for office or becoming the treasurer of a campaign committee if they fail to pay a civil penalty under this section. 
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 15.
  • Minnesota SF3281: This bill would require entities making independent expenditures to name the three individuals or entities making the largest contribution required to be reported under chapter 10A to the expending entity during the 12-month period before the expenditure was published or presented to the public
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 17.
  • Minnesota SF3283: This bill would prohibit a candidate or political committee from accepting a contribution if in exchange for the contribution the candidate or committee is granted special access to a meeting room, hospitality area, or other event space where public officials are likely to gather.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 21.
  • Wyoming HB0049: This bill would increase the penalty for failing to file disclosure reports.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 15.
  • Wyoming HB0080: This bill would require all campaigns and political action committees to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 15.

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



Disclosure Digest: February 15, 2022

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022. 

Oregon Attorney General certifies proposed ballot measures 

On Feb. 9, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) certified the language of three ballot initiatives that would limit campaign contributions and require the disclosure of donors’ identities. The certification came a day after Secretary of State Shemia Fagan (D) rejected the measures, saying they did not include the entire text of the legislation they would modify. Rosenblum’s decision does not undo Fagan’s decision, but it allows the initiative sponsors to challenge the ruling in court without having to start over with new language.

What the initiatives would do

Honest Elections Oregon, Portland Forward, and the League of Women Voters Oregon filed three versions of the Oregon Campaign Finance Contribution Limits Initiative on Dec. 6, 2021.  The initiatives would limit campaign contributions from individuals, multicandidate committees, political parties, legislative caucus committees, and membership organizations (e.g. unions). Groups would have to disclose the identity of every donor who contributed more than $5,000 in all political advertisements and communications and would also have to identify the people or entities that paid for them. One of the three initiatives would also establish a public campaign financing system where private contributions would be matched with public funds. 

Reactions

Fagan said the three measures did not meet a constitutional requirement to include the full text of the statute that would be changed: “As Secretary of State, I have a responsibility to ensure that every measure on the ballot meets the constitutional requirements to become law. If there is a procedural error in the measure, I owe it to Oregonians to require petitioners to fix the problem now, before those problems derail the law in the future.”

 Jason Kafoury, the chief petitioner of all three proposals, said, “Over the last 18 years no other secretary of state has ever, as far as I’m aware, relied on this 2004 case to reject a petition. It’s never been enforced before Fagan.” 

Fagan said Kafoury had “falsely labeled this decision as biased,” and said, “Petitioners have falsely suggested that under recent secretaries, ballot measures became law without meeting the constitution’s full-text rule. My team reviewed each of the laws they cited, and all of them met the full text rule.” 

Reacting to Rosenblum’s decision to certify the language of the measures, Kafoury said, “This is great news. This is a good day for democracy.”

What comes next

According to Oregon law, the secretary of state, consulting with the attorney general, must issue a statement declaring whether a measure either complies or does not comply with the state constitution before sponsors can gather signatures to get on the ballot. The attorney general is responsible for issuing a ballot title for the proposed measure. Although Rosenblum’s decision does not override Fagan’s decision, it allows Honest Elections to take the challenge to the measures’ language to the Oregon Supreme Court, which the group said it will do. Otherwise, the petitioners would have needed to start the initiative process over. Kafoury said starting over would take too long to give the measure any chance of getting the required number of signatures: “If the [Attorney General] won’t certify the ballot titles and let us move forward with ballot title challenges at the Supreme Court, then we’re toast.” If the court rules in favor of the petitioners, the initiative could still appear on the ballot in Oregon as an initiated state statute in the Nov. 8, 2022 election.

The number of signatures required to qualify an initiated state statute for the ballot is equal to 6% of the votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. Signatures for Oregon initiatives must be submitted four months before the next regular general election. In order for the state to certify the initiatives for the 2022 ballot, 112,020 valid signatures are required by Jul. 8.

Between 2010 and 2020, the average ballot initiative certification rate in Oregon was 8.3%. Between 1985 and 2020, 148 initiatives made the ballot and 35.8% of them were approved.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 104 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

  • Arizona HB2771: This bill would lower the contribution limits for individuals and committees and would make candidates who submit the names of certain contributors to the secretary of state eligible for supplementary funding.  
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 7.
  • Arizona HB2772: This bill would prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to a political action committee. 
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 9.
  • California AB1819: This bill would prohibit contributions from a foreign government or foreign-influenced business entity.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 7.
  • Florida H0617: This bill would exempt personal identifying information of a donor or prospective donor to the direct-support organization of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking who desires to remain anonymous from public records requirements. It would also provide an exemption from notice requirements for specified meetings. It provides for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption under the Open Government Sunset Review Act.
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 11.
  • Illinois HB4927: This bill would prohibit a foreign national from directly or indirectly making a contribution to a ballot initiative committee or an independent expenditure committee for the purpose of influencing any public policy initiative.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 9.
  • Illinois SB3425: This bill would require prosecutions for campaign finance reporting violations to begin no later than 18 months after the commission of the offense.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 10.
  • Iowa HF2318: This bill would prohibit contributions from out-of-state sources and political committees.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 10.
  • Kansas SB486: This bill would expand the scope of the campaign finance act to include candidates for board membership for school districts and community colleges in certain counties.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 10.
  • Kentucky HB301: 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: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee Feb. 11.
  • Minnesota HF3190: This bill would require entities making independent expenditures to name the three individuals or entities making the largest contribution required to be reported under chapter 10A.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee Feb. 7.
  • South Dakota HB1319: This bill would prohibit federal candidate campaign committees from making donations to candidates for state office.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 10.
  • Wyoming HB0080: This bill would require all campaigns and political action committees to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was introduced on Feb. 8.

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



Disclosure Digest: Virginia General Assembly blocks contribution limit bills

Welcome to The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for new editions published on Tuesdays through June 2022.

Virginia General Assembly blocks bills limiting contributions, moves forward with disclosure bills

A Virginia Senate committee voted to block three bills prohibiting certain campaign contributions, while the House and Senate each passed bills focused on increasing donor disclosure.

Public utilities bill blocked

On Feb. 1, the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections voted 11-4 to pass by indefinitely  SB45, sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen (D), and SB568, sponsored by Sen. Richard Stuart (R). The vote to pass by indefinitely means the committee could reconsider the bills in future meetings, but if the committee takes no further action, the bills are dead. Both bills would have prohibited candidates and elected officials from accepting contributions from any public utility and would have prohibited public utilities from making contributions. Six of the committee members who voted to block the bills are Republicans and five are Democrats. All four members who voted against the motion to pass by the bills were Democrats. The committee also struck down another of Peterson’s sponsored bills, SB44, which would have limited individual donations to $20,000 per election cycle, in a 10-5 vote on Jan. 18. Six Republicans and four Democrats voted to block the bill, and five Democrats voted against the motion.

Disclosure bills advance

The Virginia House and Senate each passed disclosure-related legislation that would create additional campaign finance reporting requirements. HB492, sponsored by Del. David Bulova (D) and four other House Democrats, would require campaign committee treasurers to keep accounts of campaign contributions and expenditures and authorize the Department of Elections to conduct reviews of a percentage of campaign committees. The Department of Elections would report the results of the reviews to the State Board of Elections, the Governor, and the General Assembly and make them available on the Department’s website. The House passed the bill 81-19 on Feb. 4. Forty-seven Democrats and 34 Republicans voted for the bill, while one Democrat and 18 Republicans voted against it.  

SB318, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Favola (D) and Scott Surovell (D), would broaden campaign advertisement disclosure requirements to include electioneering communications. It would also require certain advertisements supporting the passage or defeat of a referendum to disclose the names of the sponsor’s three largest contributors in a disclaimer. The Senate approved the bill 23-15 on Jan. 24. Nineteen Democrats and four Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while Republicans cast all 15 “no” votes. 

Reactions

In response to the Senate committee blocking SB45, Petersen said, “Every year I present this bill, and every year someone comes ready with some clever comeback to block this bill.” Stuart said he filed SB568 because he believes public utility companies have too much influence in the state’s politics. “I felt compelled to file this bill to try to stop this activity,” Stuart said, “[b]ecause clearly they’ve become too powerful in Richmond.” Brennan Gilmore, executive director of Clean Virginia, said, “Each lawmaker that continues to oppose common-sense good governance and rate reform is failing families and small businesses across the Commonwealth.” 

Chris Nolen, an attorney representing Dominion Energy, said campaign finance laws should not single out particular industries. “This is banning political speech by two corporations. And when you do that, you elevate the speech of others,” Nolen said. Similarly, Ron Jefferson, external affairs manager at Appalachian Power, said the states the company operates in treat all corporations equally under campaign finance laws: “Seven of them prohibit contributions from any corporation. Three of them have limits on all corporations. And then we have Virginia that has unlimited for everyone.” Sen. Jill Vogel (R), who argued against SB44, said, “Contributions are speech. When you set up artificial barriers to speech, people find ways around it. I think sunlight is the best way. It’s imperfect, but I think it’s, in Virginia, as good as we can get right now.”

Of the bills that passed each chamber, Nancy Morgan, a state coordinator for the group American Promise, said the increase in campaign spending during the 2021 election prompted some lawmakers to view disclosure legislation more positively. Morgan said: “After the most expensive election in Virginia history, with independent spending coming in from outside the state and with attack ads, it raised legislators’ awareness that campaign finance reform isn’t necessarily a threat, that good laws protect legislators as well as enhancing good government and building the confidence of voters.”  Del. Tim Anderson (R), one of HB492’s sponsors, said his constituents are concerned with donors’ influence in the state’s politics and support disclosure measures. “Virginia is the Wild West. It’s embarrassing,” Anderson said. “The voters want to talk about it. The voters want it.”

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 97 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

  • California AB236: This bill would require campaign finance committees to report the name of each individual who owns or controls a limited liability company or a foreign limited liability company from which the committee received a campaign contribution.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill died on Feb. 1.
  • Flordai H0617: This bill would exempt personal identifying information of a donor or prospective donor to the direct-support organization of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking who desires to remain anonymous from public records requirements. It would also provide an exemption from notice requirements for specified meetings. It provides for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption under the Open Government Sunset Review Act.
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 4.
  • Florida H0921: This bill would prohibit a foreign national from making or offering to make contributions or expenditures in connection with any election held in the state.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 4.
  • Florida S1352: This bill would prohibit a foreign national from making or offering to make contributions or expenditures in connection with any election held in the state.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 3.
  • Indiana SB0134:  This bill would require nongovernmental organization donations to a state agency or local unit of government to be listed in a separate line item in the budget of the state or local unit of government. The budget line must specify each individual state employee or local government employee, whichever is applicable, whose salary is funded in whole or in part from the donated money.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill passed the upper chamber on Jan. 31.
  • Kansas HB2579: This bill would allow a candidate for state office to request an exemption from the electronic filing requirement for campaign finance reports.
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 1.
  • Kansas SB429: This bill would allow a candidate for state office to request an exemption from the electronic filing requirement for campaign finance reports.
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Unknown sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 3.
  • Kentucky HB301: 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: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee Feb. 1.
  • Maryland HB721:  This bill would require a political club to be established as a political committee, to file a statement of organization, and submit campaign finance reports. 
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 3.
  • 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 died on Feb. 1.
  • Mississippi SB2577: This bill would repeal the reporting threshold for campaign contributions and would require candidate committees to report each person or political committee who contributes to the reporting candidate or political committee.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill died on Feb. 1.
  • Mississippi SB2576: This bill would require a candidate for nonpartisan judicial office or a candidate’s political committee t0 disclose contributions prior to the date of the election in which the candidate is running. 
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill died on Feb. 1.
  • South Dakota HB1319: This bill would prohibit federal candidate campaign committees from making donations to candidates for state office.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Republican sponsorship
    • This bill was referred to committee on Feb. 2.
  • Utah HB0040: This bill would prohibit the disclosure of donor information to a government entity if the donor requests anonymity in writing, the entity has no regulatory or legislative authority over the donor, and the entity is engaged in educational, charitable, or artistic endeavors.
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Bipartisan sponsorship
    • This bill passed the upper chamber on Feb. 4.
  • Virginia HB492: This bill would require campaign committee treasurers to keep accounts of campaign contributions and expenditures and authorize the Department of Elections to conduct reviews of a percentage of campaign committees. The Department of Elections would report the results of the reviews to the State Board of Elections, the Governor, and General Assembly and make them available on the Department’s website.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship
    • This bill passed the lower chamber on Feb. 3.

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