When voters in Missouri, South Dakota, Washington and Oregon go to the polls in November, they will vote on ballot measures that are cleverly marketed as legislation aimed at reducing “big money” and “outside influence” in local elections. If passed, what these measures would really do is limit the ability of nonprofits like ours to weigh in on policy matters we care about. This is an infringement of our First Amendment rights.
The South Dakota Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act is a good example. Also known as Measure 22, it would force nonprofit organizations to report the names and addresses of their donors to the state government, subjecting them to possible investigation by an unelected ethics board that is given the power to subpoena private documents and overrule decisions made by the state attorney general if the board disagrees
Nonprofit organizations—like the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, National Rifle Association, churches, Boys and Girls Clubs and art museums—are legally allowed under federal law to take positions on legislative matters that impact their missions, as long as they do not financially or otherwise support candidates for office. Because they are not engaging in candidate campaigns, they are allowed to protect the privacy of their financial supporters. The South Dakota measure and others like it would overrule these protections.