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Your year-end charitable donation could land you on Denver’s list

January 2, 2018

By Matt Miller
January 2, 2018

Donors may regret writing that year-end check to their favorite Colorado nonprofit, particularly if there’s a chance that nonprofit will have something to say about proposed laws in the city of Denver.

Under a recently enacted Denver ordinance, nonprofits that spend more than $500 communicating with voters about a ballot question must give the city the names and addresses of anyone giving more than $50. For donors giving more than $200, the city also wants to know donors’ occupations and the names of their employers.

Denver is not alone. Laws like this are spreading across the country. From Denver, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Tempe, Arizona, cities are demanding donor lists from nonprofits that communicate with voters about issues on the ballot. But these laws don’t just invade people’s privacy and threaten the speech of nonprofit groups — they’re also unconstitutional.

Everyone has the right to support causes they believe in — and to do so privately — under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the free-speech clause of the Colorado Constitution. That is why two Colorado nonprofit groups, the Colorado Union of Taxpayers Foundation and the TABOR Committee, have joined with the Goldwater Institute to challenge the city of Denver over its new law. They are asking a state court to declare Denver’s law unconstitutional in order to protect the rights of free speech, association, and privacy of Colorado nonprofits and their donors.

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