25 January 2019

The Philanthropy Roundtable Defends Donor Privacy in Oklahoma

by Angie Lawry, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, The Philanthropy Roundtable

The Philanthropy Roundtable expressed concerns that privacy for charitable donors in Oklahoma could be compromised under a regulation being considered by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. The Roundtable submitted testimony to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission on Amendment 2019-02.

“The regulation being considered by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission could seriously undermine the millennia-old tradition of allowing charitable donors to keep their giving private,” said Sean Parnell, vice president of public policy for The Philanthropy Roundtable. “This would diminish the freedom of philanthropists to support causes and organizations that do good work. It would also jeopardize the First Amendment’s protections for Americans to freely associate and speak out regarding important policy matters.”

There are various versions of Amendment 2019-02 under consideration. Under the most expansive version of the proposed regulation, any effort by the charity to communicate its support to some or all of the public would require the disclosure of donors who give $50 or more.

Such a regulation would have far-reaching implications. For example, a fundraising email soliciting donations and also encouraging recipients to sign an online petition could be classified as “indirect lobbying,” triggering disclosure of donors that gave simply to support the fundraising effort. It could also infringe on religious liberty by forcing churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship to disclose their donors if they communicate to the public their support or opposition to specific legislation. “This would represent an intolerable intrusion into religious freedom,” wrote Parnell, who urged the Commission to reject any regulation that would undermine the freedom of charitable donors to remain anonymous.

A copy of Parnell’s testimony can be found here.