Recent Minibus Keeps Key Budget Riders to Protect Donor Privacy

My colleague Demian Brady detailed much of what is in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024 (a.k.a. the “minibus”) that just passed the House of Representatives. But there’s another set of rules worth highlighting that are included in the law that protect donor privacy. 

An Obama-era scandal continues to need effective redress each budget year. In the lead up to the 2012 elections, the IRS Exempt Organizations office was caught targeting many nonprofits based on their public policy positions. Caught red handed, the IRS did what it does best—propose a rule that will effectively authorize its agents’ abuses. (We see the same tactic now with the IRS supervisor signature scandals and the IRS’s proposed rule to fix the issue by cutting taxpayer protections.) 

But the IRS was not alone. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, was looking to demand the donor lists of nonprofits and trade associations. And in 2011 and 2016, the Obama White House seriously considered issuing an executive order expanding reporting requirements for prospective government contractors in the bidding process. This generated bipartisan opposition in Congress, including from then-House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), then-Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Rob Portman (R-OH), over fears of politicizing the government-contracting process. 

The Obama administration was looking for many tools to demand the donor lists of nonprofits, so Congress needed to act quickly to stop the administrative state from going further. The answer was annual appropriations riders that prohibited certain agencies from spending money on these donor list demands. The minibus continues these protections. 

The key provisions in this latest bill are the following:

  1. Section 123 prevents the IRS from writing new regulations to limit political speech and force disclosure from nonprofit groups.

  2. Section 633 prohibits the SEC from requiring businesses to disclose their giving to political causes, tax-exempt organizations, and trade associations.

  3. Section 735 blocks the president from issuing an executive order to require government contractors to detail their political and issue advocacy as a condition of bidding on a government contract.

These budget riders are bipartisan, but they must be included in each year’s federal spending bills to remain effective. As the Tea Party Targeting scandals fade from memory, it is important to remain diligent in keeping watch on the existing protections to donor privacy.