Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Senate Campaign Finance Bill Would Target Nonprofits

The New Hampshire State Senate is preparing to vote today on a bill that would require nonprofits and other groups to report the money they spend on state and national political races.

Nonprofits have long been under the microscope of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for contributions or statements made during campaign season but, as was reported by The Union Leader, Senate bill HB 1704 would expand the definition of a political committee to include tax-exempt organizations, specifically 501(c)(4)s, 501(c)(5)s, and 501(c)(6)s. These include social advocacy groups, labor unions, and business associations.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision Citizen v. United, there has been a lot of concern about anonymous donors using 501(c)(4)s as a means to funnel huge contributions to what are known as Super Political Action Committees (PACs). Still, both liberal and conservative groups have expressed displeasure with the current bill.

New Hampshire ACLU Executive Director Claire Ebel told The Union Leader that she was particularly concerned about a section of the bill that requires disclosure when a group pays for “distribution of information critical of a member of the general court who has not filed for office.” Ebel believes this is in direct violation of the First Amendment. The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a conservative organization based in Concord, N.H., also has issues with this section of the bill.

HB 1704 is being promoted by Concord-based Coalition for Open Democracy, whose program director, Olivia Zink, denied the bill would squash free speech. She said the bill was based on similar legislation that was passed in Maine that was upheld by the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

You can read the full story in The Union Leader.

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