SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) A lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday asking that a Utah law be declared unconstitutional. House Bill 43 was passed in 2013 to get rid of shenanigans involving the use of money from non-profits to quietly support a candidate or political issue.
The group suing today claims it has the net effect of silencing free speech or forcing people to stop supporting a particular non-profit organization. They also claim it can have far reaching ramifications.
The bill basically forces any non-profit that spends over $750 on something that might be deemed political to list the names and addresses and the donation amount of anyone who contributes $50 or more.
The Center for Competitive Politics filed the suit today on behalf of the Utah Taxpayers Association, the Utah Taxpayers Legal Foundation and the Libertas Institute. CCP legal director Allen Dickerson says simply "Utah has passed a law that clearly violates the first amendment."
He says the Supreme Court has ruled on "the right to privacy of association and belief and may not simply pry into the inner workings of a non-profit corporation."
Here's where the law of unintended consequences takes hold. If this law would have been in place when the LDS Church financially supported the Prop 8, gay marriage issue in California, the church could have been forced to list all of it's donors around the world. That's according to Conner Boyack, President of the Utah based Libertas Institute, one of the groups involved in the federal lawsuit.
Another example might be the Catholic Church financially entering the debate over capital punishment. If the church spent over $750, the Utah law could force it to list donors world wide.
Boyack says "laws like this can and do have a chilling effect that might lead people to not associate with organizations that they otherwise would out of fear of being named, dissected and identified."
The Utah Taxpayers Association is another group crying fowl over the law. Vice President Billy Hesterman says his group is primarily a taxpayer watchdog, but "we feel the need to occasionally weigh in on ballot issues that affect the taxpayer. HB 43 creates a silencing effect on that participation."
The groups involved say this isn't an adversarial situation with the state. They just want the law declared unconstitutional so that non-profits can engage in a limited amount of political activity without being forced to disclose their donors.
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