Constitutionally Suspect Nevada Bill Would Chill Nonprofit Groups’ Speech Rights

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Center for Competitive Politics’ External Relations Director Matt Nese submitted comments today to the Nevada Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee on Senate Bill 246, which expands the state’s definition of “committee for political action” to broadly cover many organizations, which only minimally participate in electoral politics.

The bill’s revised definition of “committee for political action” uses a monetary trigger that blurs the distinction between groups that exist for political purposes, and groups that do not, but happen to incidentally engage in political speech. According to Nese, “under current law, a ‘committee for political action’ must report each of its contributions and expenditures over $100, if it makes any expenditures on behalf of a candidate. As a result, S.B. 246 significantly expands the reporting requirements of organizations that do not have a major purpose of influencing elections, by subjecting them to the same reporting requirements as political committees, simply because they make expenditures of more than $5,000.”

The comments detail a series of court decisions, which have ruled that it is constitutionally impermissible to use such a trigger, rather than an analysis of a group’s major purpose, to determine whether an organization qualifies as a committee for political action.

Apart from the constitutional issues raised by the legislation, the registration and disclosure requirements mandated by this bill may subject donors to harassment. As Nese notes, “little can be done once individual contributor information – a donor’s full name and street address – is made public under government compulsion. It can then immediately be used by non-governmental entities and individuals to harass, threaten, or financially harm a speaker or contributor to an unpopular cause.”

S.B. 246 passed the Senate on April 22. The bill will be heard before the Assembly Committee at 4:00 PM PT this afternoon. A copy of the comments can be found here.

For more information, contact CCP Communications Director Sarah Lee at 770.598.7961.

The Center for Competitive Politics promotes and defends the First Amendment’s protection of political rights of speech, assembly, and petition. It is the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.

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