Federal Legislation

There has generally been little interest at the federal level in requiring the disclosure of charitable contributions. One piece of legislation introduced in 2020 that might force donor disclosure in limited circumstances is the U.S. House of Representatives’ H.R. 5929. The bill would require publicly traded corporations to reveal dues and other payments made to nonprofits organized under Section 501(c) of the tax code if the recipients engage in either “independent expenditures” (expenditures “expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate”) or “electioneering communications.” 

While few, if any, charitable organizations are likely to be affected, the definition of “electioneering communication” could potentially include speech by charities about issues, as the Independence Institute (a Colorado-based think tank organized as a 501(c)3 charity) learned in 2017. It tried to run ads encouraging Coloradans to contact their U.S. senators and ask them to support sentencing-reform legislation—but the Federal Election Commission determined (and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed) that the ads were electioneering communications because one of Colorado’s senators was up for election at the time the ads would have run. That meant the Independence Institute would have had to disclose some of its donors.