/Effort to protect identity of nonprofit donors passes amid charges it opens door to ‘dark money’ in state politics

Effort to protect identity of nonprofit donors passes amid charges it opens door to ‘dark money’ in state politics

Others are less certain. According to Sen. David Blount (D-Jackson), the legislation will “open the largest loophole since campaign finance disclosure was passed in Mississippi,” which is a reference to when he worked in the Secretary’s office. The bill has passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature primarily along partisan lines and is now pending the signature of Gov. Phil Bryant. The bill was written by Jerry Turner (Republican from Baldwyn), who said that the legislation is not intended to bypass the state’s campaign finance laws. The bill was presented to him by Mississippi Center for Public Policy. It is the advocacy “for real conservative views.” Jameson Taylor, vice-president for policy at the Center for Public Policy, said that the bill did not change existing campaign finance laws. It also doesn’t change any laws regarding non-profit lobbying. This bill allows a non-profit that has been bullied or intimidated by the government to present its case in state court. “These protections are more important than ever so people can give to the causes or charities they choose without being harassed for exercising the First Amendment right of free speech.” Taylor stated that Section 5 of Taylor’s bill does not specify that the legislation will have any impact on the state’s campaign finance laws. Blount stated that the nonprofit would claim it is a 501(c), a federal Internal Revenue Service classification, and then simply state it isn’t subject to the campaign financing laws. If the governor signs the legislation into law, it will be up to federal courts to determine the impact. Blount stated that certain 501(c), nonprofit designations can participate in limited amounts of political speech but cannot endorse candidates. These include Planned Parenthood (left) and the National Rifle Association (right). Blount stated that a nonprofit could run ads attacking or praising candidates in the coming state elections. The bill will take effect July 1. The Secretary of State stated that any “committee or party, club or association, political campaign committee or political action committee or other groups of people or affiliated organizations” receiving or spending more $200 “for the purpose or trying to influence or attempt to influence the action or voters” must file campaign financing reports. Taylor stated that the law was necessary because other states have made public the names of donors to non-profits. Taylor could not cite any example of this happening in Mississippi. It is also unclear which agency would have the names and addresses of non-profit donors. Taylor stated that Mississippi must protect donors’ privacy. “Whether you’re on the left or right, all people should have the same protection,” Taylor said. However Blount stated that he thinks the bill will restrict transparency about who is funding campaign activities and that this is a problem. He said that the bill would bring dark money into state politics, just as we do at the federal level._x000D