The DISCLOSE Act Will Harm Nonprofits and Their Supporters

July 18, 2022 | PUFP Staff

In preparation for Tuesday’s Senate Committee on Rules & Administration hearing on the so-called “DISCLOSE Act,” introduced this Congress as both S. 443 and S. 2671, below is a short analysis of what is in the bill and how it would harm speech by nonprofits and the privacy of their supporters.

For just one example of the real world dangers of forced disclosure mandates, we encourage you to read the story of Dr. Yang Jianli and his organization, Citizen Power Initiatives for China, a pro-democracy nonprofit based in the United States. As hostility to free speech and democracy persist in America and around the world, Dr. Yang’s story makes a strong case for why we must protect citizen privacy.

The DISCLOSE Act will require nonprofits to report their supporters to the Federal Election Commission for common types of communications and require organizations to declare whether they support or oppose a political candidate, even if their message is about a legislative issue and not related to any campaign.

  • The bill creates a new category of expenditures called “campaign-related disbursements” that include speech common for nonprofits, such as mentioning a federal candidate in the context of pending legislation or current policy debates.
  • Organizations making “campaign-related disbursements” totaling more than $10,000 during a two-year “election reporting cycle” (or a calendar year for “federal judicial nomination communications”) must publicly report the names and addresses of all donors giving $10,000 or more during that period to the FEC.
  • In effect, groups speaking about issues in Congress (or federal judicial nominees) will be forced to report the names and addresses of their supporters to the government for inclusion in a publicly searchable database.
  • Any speech that mentions a federal candidate would trigger a filing requirement to report whether that speech advocates for or against the elected official – even if the message has nothing to do with their campaign.
  • Requires public reporting of all vendors paid more than $1,000.

The DISCLOSE Act would also harm philanthropy by requiring nonprofits that make grants or payments to another organization to disclose their donors to the FEC, if the receiving organization plans to make “campaign-related disbursements” totaling $50,000 or more within the next two years. Granting organizations will then be placed in the impossible position of predicting what the recipient may do in the future.

These types of disclosure bills are devastating for issue advocacy groups and nonprofits across the political spectrum and equally devastating for Americans across the country who wish to privately support the causes of their choice.

The DISCLOSE Act will:

  • Chill the speech of issue advocacy groups and nonprofits.
  • Force nonprofits to choose between spreading their message and protecting their donors’ privacy.
  • Target law-abiding American nonprofits instead of guarding against foreign interference in elections.
  • Unfairly hurt small and emerging nonprofits that do not have the resources to hire attorneys to help navigate these confusing regulations.
  • Force grant-making nonprofits to shut down philanthropic efforts to protect donors and themselves from liability.

Tell Congress to oppose this ill-conceived anti-privacy proposal.