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Question of the day

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* Albany, New York Times-Union

A national group that lobbied against legislative efforts to legalize adult use of marijuana is seeking to keep its funding sources confidential.

The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics is scheduled to hear a disclosure exemption request Tuesday from the New York chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), which contends its donors could be harassed and their livelihoods adversely affected if they are publicly identified.

The group spent more than $84,000 on lobbying during the recent legislative session, according to financial disclosures with the state. […]

In New York, social welfare organizations that engage in lobbying are required to disclose their sources of funding unless they can prove there is a “substantial likelihood” of harm or reprisals for publicly revealed donors. The requirement is to ensure the public is informed about efforts to influence governmental decisions, according to JCOPE.

* The Question: Should Illinois also require 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations to disclose their funding sources if they lobby? Make sure to explain your answer.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

35 Comments
  1. - Colin O'Scopy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:28 am:

    To the question, my answer is yes, they must disclose. All parties trying to influence government should disclose who is behind them financially. I believe in transparency.

    In the post Citizens United world, transparency is needed now more than ever.


  2. - Steve - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:30 am:

    Below a certain dollar amount … no. Low paid people can only contribute so much money and their job could be on the line.


  3. - Anon-I-Guess - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    Yes. I would like to know how many private prison dollars went into that effort. We require transparency in donations directly to candidates, it makes sense to have transparency in issue advocacy.


  4. - Streator Curmudgeon - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    That’s a tough question, Rich. Normally I’m for as much transparency as possible, but in today’s culture of violence, some donors could face a true threat if they support unpopular causes.

    However, I don’t like the Citizens United decision. I’m going to say donors to 501(c)(4)’s SHOULD be disclosed in Illinois, and people should take that into consideration before they give.


  5. - A Jack - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:34 am:

    Yes, I think all donation sources for all lobbying should be fully disclosed. We should know where a lobbyist’s financial interests lie.


  6. - Ducky LaMoore - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:36 am:

    I am pretty much in favor of every political group having to disclose donors.

    “Joint Commission on Public Ethics”
    And I would like to say, I always wanted to be the vice chairman of a joint commission.


  7. - thunderspirit - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    Yes, I absolutely believe all lobbying groups should disclose funding. Transparency is vital to know who’s promoting what.


  8. - TheInvisibleMan - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:40 am:

    Yes.

    If you want to influence the business of the public the you also become public.

    This particular instance has the fingerprints of the catholic church all over it. But I wont be surprised to see the alcohol lobby in there too.


  9. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:40 am:

    Yes. I’m OK with a floor, if it is low ($50-100). This information should be public.


  10. - The_Equalizer - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    Absolutely. If you spend money like that to influence the government, it should be totally transparent.


  11. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    I approach it like this;

    I’d be fine with no limits. Totally cool.

    The reason I would is… automatic disclosure of anything greater than $1.

    Full disclosure… no limits.

    ===Should Illinois also require 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations to disclose their funding sources if they lobby? Make sure to explain your answer.===

    So, if they lobby?

    Yeah, disclosing doesn’t hurt.

    If it does, then you may need to wonder why that hurts.


  12. - DIstant watcher - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:47 am:

    The Russian Doll problem… what to do when a non-profit that lobbies gets all or most of its money from a non-profit that doesn’t disclose? It’s not a reason to forgo disclosure, but it’s something to plan for.


  13. - lake county democrat - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:48 am:

    Imagine you supported the ACLU in a conservative part of the country in the 50’s or 60’s - would you be comfortable donating if you knew your John Birch-loving manager would discover it? I think the same principles behind a secret ballot apply to contributions. Now whether corporations and businesses should enjoy the same protections is a different matter, but until Citizens United is overturned, they get them as well.


  14. - Techie - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:49 am:

    Yes, disclose it. If you’re trying to influence public policy, the public should know who you are.


  15. - James Knell - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:51 am:

    Total disclosure. “harassed and their livelihoods adversely affected” Buck up, snowflakes.


  16. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:53 am:

    ===Imagine you supported the ACLU in a conservative part of the country in the 50’s or 60’s - would you be comfortable donating if you knew your John Birch-loving manager would discover it?===

    I thought money was free speech? You can say anything you want, but there are consequences to free speech too.

    ===I think the same principles behind a secret ballot apply to contributions.===

    No.

    It’s free speech, not anything like a secret ballot.


  17. - Anyone Remember - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:57 am:

    Yes. Transparency should be maximized.


  18. - Angry Republican - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:01 pm:

    Yes, it makes it much easier to punish people for wrongthink. Brendan Eich agrees.


  19. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:03 pm:

    ===Yes, it makes it much easier to punish people for wrongthink.===

    Freedom of speech.

    The concern for those donating is… heartwarming.

    Everyone discloses, then there’s no worry.


  20. - Pierogie Tirebiter - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:17 pm:

    Most definitely yes-
    Sunlight is a great antiseptic.


  21. - Honeybear - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:20 pm:

    Yes, absolutely disclose everything.
    I give 20.84 from every paycheck to my unions political PAC.
    I’m proud of my contribution to promote legislative equality.
    I wear the jacket even. Literally and figuratively.
    IPI and the Koch network are the folks who are worried.


  22. - Earnest - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:23 pm:

    Yes. We should get to know who is spending money to influence voters, policy and legislators. Those who don’t want to be public for whatever noble or ignoble reason can avail themselves of non-financial avenues to influence.


  23. - Unionman - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:29 pm:

    Every organization advocating for an issues should be required to disclose their funding sources and their expenditures.


  24. - lake county democrat - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:38 pm:

    If money is free speech, then the right of confidentiality for free speech applies (e.g., Talley v. California). And this evades the question: the same chilling effect wold apply to either a vote or disseminating information that might affect the vote or acting on laws/policies resulting from the vote. It’s not per se wrong to claim the benefits of disclosure outweigh that chilling effect, but it’s not a given.


  25. - lake county democrat - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:43 pm:

    More on Talley: if there is a constitutional right to anonymously post a flier on a billboard in Springfield, how should there not be a right to pay someone anonymously to post that flier?


  26. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:50 pm:

    I’m always worried that hiding donors is a gaming of the system.

    You donate, you disclose, end of discussion. Donate millions for all I care.

    Fear of disclosure isn’t of the same spirit of a secret ballot, is my arguement for discussion, here.

    Sometimes standing up for something means disclosure, especially if monies are part of this disclosure.


  27. - JustSayin - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:02 pm:

    Yes of Coarse. Just like Unions disclose fully as does Corporate America…well they should anyway.


  28. - Angry Republican - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:13 pm:

    == Everyone discloses, then there’s no worry. ==
    No worries until the doxxers come after you. All this transparency will lead to crushing dissent and anyone holding a minority opinion.


  29. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    ===No worries until the doxxers come after you. All this transparency will lead to crushing dissent and anyone holding a minority opinion.===

    Freedom of speech protects that.

    Again, I’m suspect of *any* not willing, when accepting monies, to disclose.

    If you’re willing to donate a $1, or $1 million, or multiple millions… then those getting that dollar should disclose.


  30. - Nuke the Whales - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    For large dollar donations, yes. The public interest in knowing who is funding lobbying efforts exceeds any imaginary retaliation/attacks on those giving large amounts of money to lobbying efforts that they would be forced to disclose if it were a political campaign. Small dollar donors create a gray area for me. This is best represented by when then-Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) intimidated a woman out of her workplace for supporting a group opposed to his policy agenda (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/15/p-s-an-anti-trump-activist-works-for-your-bank-ethics-experts-say-this-congressmans-fundraising-letter-sounds-like-a-threat/?noredirect=on


  31. - the Patriot - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:19 pm:

    I find it highly ironic that we would want full disclosure on those who oppose legalization, but allow those actually growing and selling it to do so in secret under a series of shell corporations.


  32. - Froganon - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:20 pm:

    Full disclosure for anything over $50.00 per year. Full discloser for individuals who “bundle” their donations. Any organization or group actively working and or donating to influence legislation or public policy must fully disclose all of their donors. Own what you support, no hiding behind a veil of secrecy.


  33. - Fav Human - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 2:20 pm:

    Of course not. We saw in CA how several people lost jobs over their contributions supporting traditional marriage.

    Courts have ruled often that anonymous speech can be kept anonymous.

    But I will also say, if you insist on forcing disclosure, then actually firing someone for a contribution should be considered intimidation of civil rights exercise, and prosecuted accordingly.

    If so, the firms that own Firefox and OKCupid would have been sued for it.


  34. - Just Me 2 - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 2:54 pm:

    These types of organizations are only allowed to spend a small fraction of their overall budget on lobbying. IT is conceivable that someone would donate to support one of the organizations programs and not be aware (or care) about their lobbying efforts.


  35. - XonXoff - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 9:28 am:

    Yes, disclose. The money is used for and against legislation that affects tax paying citizens who expect “politicians” to be representing us. Big money influence is like a wildcard and we (the citizens) deserve to know who’s making those wildcards possible. This is real life, not some table game.


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