Monday, July 17

Debating donor anonymity

An article ran in today's Washington Post on the practices of the Democracy Alliance - a group started with backing from George Soros and Tim Gill.

Some people may be concerned that Democracy Alliance is funding further leaning liberal groups (Media Matters) at the expense of centrist groups (Democratic Leadership Council). Others may argue that right wing think tanks give the same kind of anonymity to their donors, so liberal funders should have the same type of "protection" from public scrutiny. But isn't the real question about impact anonymous donors on any nonprofit?

I mean, is this really just a case of secrecy in politics? Doesn't the public have a right to know if anonymous donors are pulling the strings of their favorite charities? I love the Congo Gorilla Forest at the Bronz Zoo... if I found out that some big anonymous donors convinced the Board to pull the plug on this exhibit that wouldn't seem fair to the rest of us, right?

CASE has a really interesting summary of some court cases in Kentucky that protected a University to protect a donor's privacy. Kentucky's Jefferson Circuit Court found that if a foundation is found to be a public agency than freedom of information laws apply to donor records... unless that donor has requested anonymity.

"Respecting the privacy interests of individuals who request anonymity also may serve to encourage those individuals who would otherwise not contribute to make significant donations to the University…The University of Louisville as well as thousands of other institutions similarly situated depend on having the ability to honor requests for anonymity which may be based on something as simple as an individual just wanting to keep his or her affairs private. Without the ability to honor such a request, the Foundation has a legitimate fear that donations may otherwise be lost. Anonymity can serve an important and valid purpose, both for the individuals seeking anonymity and the University which benefits from the donor's gift."

What do you think?

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