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November 18, 2015

Utah Groups File Suit Against Donor-Disclosure Law

A trio of Utah nonprofits filed a court challenge Tuesday to a state law aimed at boosting transparency in electoral spending, saying the measure is written so broadly it would ensnare almost any organization commenting on political issues, The Salt Lake Tribune writes.

The measure requires a nonprofit to disclose its donors if it spends $750 or more "to influence or tend to influence, directly or indirectly" any election. It was adopted in 2013 in the wake of a scandal involving former state Attorney General John Swallow, who was accused of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from payday lenders through a nonprofit to shield donors' identities.

The Utah Taxpayers Association, the Utah Taxpayers Legal Foundation, and the Libertas Institute say the law would have a chilling effect on the free-speech rights of groups ranging from Planned Parenthood to the Mormon Church. The measure presents nonprofits with "an impossible choice" between taking part in the public debate and protecting donors' privacy, said Allen Dickerson, legal director of the Center for Competitive Politics, which is representing the plaintiffs.