Oklahoma Lawmaker Asks Ethics Commission to Dox Nonprofit Donors

February 14, 2024 | Alex Baiocco

On February 9, People United for Privacy urged the Oklahoma Ethics Commission to reject a lawmaker’s concerning request to implement donor exposure policies already wreaking havoc on nonprofits in Arizona and suffering multiple legal challenges.

PUFP submitted comments in response to the Ethics Commission’s draft agenda for its February 9 meeting, which included a rulemaking request by Representative Cody Maynard (R). Despite myriad legal, administrative, and policy issues with Arizona’s recently enacted Prop 211 statute, Rep. Maynard submitted an identical proposal and asked the Oklahoma Ethics Commission to adopt it via rulemaking.

Fortunately, the Commission’s final agenda included a note from Rep. Maynard stating that he has “decided to postpone the submission for the time being” due to “valuable feedback from a variety of stakeholders” and his subsequent recognition of “the complexity of the issue.” While the so-called “Voters’ Right to Know Act” was tabled by the Commission at Rep. Maynard’s request, he also indicated that he intends to “enhance” his initial proposal after a “brief delay.”

PUFP’s comments to the Commission note the substantial constitutional problems with the proposal and explain the significant burdens it would place on the free speech and privacy rights of Oklahomans and the important nonprofit causes they support.

Responding to Rep. Maynard’s initial assertion that Arizona’s “Voters’ Right to Know Act” is presumptively constitutional due to a recent state court ruling, PUFP’s comments explain that the referenced ruling by the Maricopa County Superior Court “provides little assurance of the Act’s constitutionality.”

“To the contrary, the court failed to properly apply the ‘exacting scrutiny’ standard, as recently refined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) v. Bonta, against the Act’s unconstitutionally broad donor exposure requirements and failed to adequately address the Act’s unconstitutionally vague terminology,” the comments continue.

Furthermore, as the comments note, two additional legal challenges to the constitutionality of Arizona’s law are ongoing.

The comments further discuss how the proposal’s vague and broad disclosure requirements would significantly harm the speech and privacy rights of Oklahomans and negatively impact the state’s nonprofit community:

“Ultimately, many nonprofits will decide that the hassle of compliance, the potential for errors and costly penalties, and the risk to their supporters and other organizations is simply too much to bear. Most groups will choose to sit on the sidelines and not represent the voices of their supporters, denying the public and elected officials the ability to benefit from their views on important issues. Worst of all, the measure’s complexity will be most harmful to small and volunteer-run organizations as well as those groups advocating for causes disfavored by those in power. No organization or cause is safe from this measure’s reach – and neither are the citizens who support their missions.”

While the threat to Oklahomans’ free speech and personal privacy has cooled, at least for the time being, this proposal may re-emerge in the near future. Hopefully, Oklahoma lawmakers and regulators have an increased awareness of how these privacy-invasive and convoluted policies not only harm nonprofits and their supporters, but also expose the state to costly and complex litigation.