2019 Bills

HB 34: Doubling Down on Violating Free Association

This bill was held in committee. 

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and should be opposed.

Several years ago, in response to the illegal use of a nonprofit to engage in political spending against a candidate, the Legislature passed a law creating a donor reporting regime compelling organizations to indicate who supports them when they do a limited amount (or more) of political spending.

We brought a lawsuit to challenge that law alongside the Utah Taxpayers Association, and the case was settled, resulting in a consent decree in which the law is not in force any longer.

However, Representative Lee Perry is sponsoring House Bill 34, which recreates a donor disclosure reporting requirement compelling organizations to disclose the private information of their donors, creating a chilling effect—much like we argued before.

Charitable contributions are not the same thing as candidate contributions, and the intent of those pushing for these requirements is to limit a group’s ability to spend “dark money” to attack a candidate, which groups like ours do not do—in fact, we cannot engage in any spending for or against a candidate. Nonetheless, these laws compel disclosure of our private associational information, which can harm our ability to generate support from those who might wish to privately support certain of our efforts, but for various reasons—familial, political, religious, professional, etc.—might not want that information published on a government list.

In its current form, the bill would likely be vulnerable to another lawsuit from an organization like ours, and if defeated, would result in taxpayer dollars having to pay for the attorney fees involved in bringing another lawsuit over the same issue.

We have proposed an amendment that would resolve our concern and eliminate the constitutional controversy in this bill.