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Politics

Bill Preventing Disclosure Of Donor IDs Passes NC Senate

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The names of charitable donors to North Carolina-based nonprofits can’t be disclosed publicly by the group without a donor’s written permission under legislation approved Tuesday by the Senate.

The bill, backed by Republicans, also would make clear a donor’s identifying information is not a public record when held by a government agency, and that a government worker who uses or discloses it could be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Sen. Norm Sanderson, a Pamlico County Republican and chief bill sponsor, said the measure is designed to protect the privacy of donors in light of efforts by attorneys general in other states to obtain donor information from nonprofits as part of a fraud investigation. Sanderson said he’s worried the information could end up becoming public knowledge and wants to prevent a similar situation in North Carolina.

With the legislation, “the state will have the ability to totally protect these lists from (going) into the wrong hands,” he said.

The bill states the confidentiality rules wouldn’t apply to campaign finance or electioneering disclosures, including electioneering communications. And a donor's action to block disclosure doesn't work when other state and federal law or a criminal investigation take precedence.

Democratic senators who spoke on the floor said they were still worried the measure could further conceal giving by big political donors to “dark money” nonprofit organizations. These groups are used by supporters of both parties and their candidates.

“Are we all exactly sure what the consequences of this bill will be?” asked Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Mecklenburg County Democrat and 2022 U.S. Senate candidate. “No, we’re talking about tax law and people who are trying to purposefully evade campaign law ... safe to say it’s a very dark cloud.”

The bill passed on a 28-21 party-line vote and now heads to the House for consideration.

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