Money & Business

Nonprofit Donor Transparency Law Raises Concerns in New York

By / Aug 22, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Nonprofit groups focused on hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage are pushing for exemptions from New York State’s transparency law that requires them to release the names of their donors.

Debate is heating up over which nonprofits will be exempted from disclosing the names of donors as New York state’s law requires, according to The New York Times.

Public and political scrutiny have intensified, the Times reported, since the state ethics commission voted in a closed session to grant the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice New York the lone exemption from the law in early August. The potential for physical harm to come to donors was a key concern. Since then, according to the paper, two other nonprofits that support abortion rights, another that opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and the New York Civil Liberties Union have applied for exemptions, claiming that the requirement to report names will endanger their donors as well.

“It can quickly become a slippery slope,” Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, told The Times. “Once you start pulling out one thread and creating an exemption, you risk having the whole network of reporting be undermined.”

The conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom was quick to challenge the ethics commission’s decision to exempt NARAL, asking for the same treatment to protect its donors’ anonymity. “Every nonprofit organization that applies for an exemption from donor disclosure requirements should be evaluated using the same procedure and standards,” the Rev. Jason McGuire said in a statement issued by the group that was quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

A Newsday editorial published earlier this month argues that the NARAL exemption “allows NARAL and other groups that may be approved to garner political contributions outside of public view and free of campaign finance restrictions.” It asserts that the “lack of transparency presents a real danger to our system, while the danger that donors to unpopular causes will be seriously targeted is highly unlikely.”

What does this debate mean for New York nonprofits whose causes aren’t considered controversial enough to win an exemption? Will donations dry up if names must be disclosed? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

Daniel Ford

Daniel Ford is a contributor to Associations Now. More »

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