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Getting 'Billed'.

Federal legislation targets fundraising

It was only matter of time before Republican lawmakers took another shot at former President Bill Clinton. That shot could cause the first crack in the protection of donors.

The worst part of it is that Clinton loaded the gun when he agreed to allow confidential, non-public donor records of his presidential library to be examined by members of Congress who were investigating his last minute pardons.

As written about in this column last month, the NAACP v. Alabama, decided on June 1, 1964, has been the gold standard in protecting membership records.

And in these days when member and donor are interchangeable terms, it's clear that the courts wanted donors protected.

After four trips to the U.S. Supreme Court, the fifth trip by the NAACP brought about the historic decision. Justices ruled that an organization could not be forced to turn over its member lists, and that the State of Alabama's complaint that the organization was able "to raise funds under a false claim that it is for the protection of alleged constitutional rights" was ludicrous.

IRS guidelines state that only that agency can have access to lists of donors who gave more than $5,000 and that the information is absolutely not public information. That means nobody and no entity, including Congress, can have access -- unless the organization allows it.

Now there's H.R. 577, introduced by Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.). Section 1 of the legislation says it all -- "Requirement To Disclose Sources And Amounts Of Funds Raised For The Creation Of A Presidential Archival Depository." It calls for the public disclosure of sources and amounts of "any funds received" by an organization created to raise funds for a presidential library.

The bill has already had a hearing and is headed toward mark-up.

This legislation is dangerous because it goes right to the heart of the NAACP argument those many years ago. It's every American's right to assemble and to support causes in which they believe, without fear of retribution.

There's no doubt that Clinton's pardon of fugitive Marc Rich is an outrage, and the connection between Rich's former wife and donations to Clinton's library, which includes a plush penthouse reserved for Clinton, is suspect.

Allowing this legislation would be an ugly precedent. The libraries are only the first step.

Charities must stand up and fight this legislation and attempts like it or risk losing the ability to fundraise for causes that at the time are unpopular in a society that has not yet evolved to see the good the organization fosters.

1964 really wasn't that long ago, was it?
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:fundraising legislation
Author:Clolery, Paul
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:439
Previous Article:Former ACS Official Going To Jail.
Next Article:Letters To The Editor.
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