23 April 2019

Donor Privacy in California Gets a Reprieve – For Now

Earlier this month I reported on a bill in California, A.B. 1712, that would have given the Attorney General wide-ranging authority to demand detailed information regarding donor-advised funds, potentially including the names of specific fund donors and grant recommendations made by the fund advisors (see here for that post).

ACR worked closely with several philanthropic allies, including Philanthropy California (a coalition of the state’s regional grantmaker associations) and the League of California Community Foundations, to explain the dangers of the bill. It was originally scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in the California Assembly Judiciary Committee, and last week The Philanthropy Roundtable submitted a letter to all of the members of the committee explaining our concerns related to donor privacy.

There’s good news to report – the hearing on A.B. 1712 has been cancelled, and because of the legislative calendar in California it means the bill will not be considered in the 2019 legislative session. The downside is that the bill now becomes what is called a “two-year bill” and will be up for consideration again in the 2020 session.

One of the pleasant surprises related to our efforts on this bill was just how favorable many California lawmakers apparently were to the concerns related to donor privacy. Early on we had been told that it wasn’t clear this issue would resonate, given that the bill itself didn’t directly target donor privacy (the language of the bill was focused on getting information on payout rates, inactive DAFs, and investments held by DAF sponsors). It was gratifying to see that once donor privacy was brought into the mix as a potential issue, many legislators and staff grasped the danger and voiced concerns as well, which ultimately contributed to the bill getting pulled back for this session.

There’s more work to be done, and The Philanthropy Roundtable will continue to work with our allies in California – who did terrific work and coordinated our efforts with in-state groups as well as provided valuable analysis and political intelligence – to ensure that donor privacy remains at the front of legislators’ minds as the bill comes back around in 2020. And it should also be noted that the sponsor of the bill, Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D – Oakland/Berkeley), was receptive and responsive to our concerns and had drafted amendment language that partly addressed them as well as dropped some of the inflammatory (and I would argue, inaccurate) legislative findings, suggesting there’s an opportunity to work with her to get all of our concerns addressed.

But for now, we’re chalking this one up as a win.