Wolf: Nonprofits should report lobbying expenditures to donors

Posted: Monday, March 10, 2003

Rep. Kelly Wolf, R-Kenai, wants people who donate to nonprofit organizations to know exactly what their money's going for.

Wolf introduced House Bill 149 on Wednesday. The legislation would force nonprofits to provide public notice of lobbying expenditures as well as an annual report of all lobbying expenditures. Wolf said Thursday he believes the public needs to be informed when the money they donate to nonprofits is going toward lobbying expenditures in Juneau.

"It's only fair to the public that they know where this money is going," he said.

At issue for Wolf is the fact that nonprofits can take so-called "soft money" -- donations not dedicated for any specific purpose -- and spend it on whatever they see fit.

Although current Internal Revenue Service regulations do require nonprofits to report their expenditures, Wolf said the IRS cannot possibly keep up with the activities of all the 5,000 plus nonprofits operating in Alaska.

"The IRS has regulations governing the lobbying efforts of nonprofits already," he said." (But) the IRS is maxed out with their responsibilities."

Wolf said the law is designed to ensure that individual donors know what kinds of things nonprofits groups are lobbying for. He said he believes the current system is open to abuses because nonprofits may be lobbying for things with which donors don't agree.

"If Ma and Pa Kettle decide, 'We want to give XYZ nonprofit $5,000,' they will know if those monies went to a lobbying effort against a company that Pa Kettle worked for all his life," Wolf explained. "All it does is gives the public full disclosure of that money. Then it's the people's choice whether or not they want to continue to contribute to that nonprofit."

Wolf's bill will require nonprofits to provide written public notice of each lobbying expenditure in excess of $500 not less than two weeks before the expenditure occurs. The notice would have to include the nature of the expense, including the time, place and activities proposed.

Wolf said his bill should not have any impact on nonprofits that use money for legitimate lobbying expenses. He said only groups that have something to hide from donors should be worried.

"If they're not stepping on IRS regulations and spending more money in a year than they should be, they have nothing to fear," he said.

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