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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington Senate passes disclosure bill aimed at nonprofits

OLYMPIA – Many nonprofit organizations that give $25,000 or more to political campaigns in Washington would have to disclose their largest donors, under a bill the Senate passed unanimously on Wednesday.

Saying the change amounted to “bringing dark money into the light,” Sen. Andy Billig, the prime sponsor, urged the Senate to close a loophole in state campaign laws that political groups all along the political spectrum exploit.

The change would place disclosure rules on so-called incidental committees, nonprofit organizations that were set up for other purposes but contribute large amounts to candidates or to support or oppose a ballot measure.

“Transparency in campaigns leads to a healthier democracy,” said Billig, D-Spokane.

Most nonprofit organizations that contribute at least $25,000 to a campaign would be required to file a statement of organization with the Public Disclosure Commission, followed by monthly reports. They would have to report their top 10 donors over $10,000, and any donor who has given more than $100,000. There would be an exception for national 527 organizations, sometimes known as superpacs, if they file with the Federal Election Commission.

For those superpacs, the Public Disclosure Commission would provide a computer link to their federal filings.

Nonprofit organizations that were not required to disclose donors have been involved in several high-profile campaigns in recent years, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which pumped $11 million into the campaign against an initiative that would have required products in Washington to be labeled if they contained genetically modified organisms, and Working Washington, which contributed some $250,000 to a campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 in the city of SeaTac. 

The law also could affect some local nonprofit organizations like Greater Spokane Incorporated, if they contribute $25,000 or more to a campaign for or against a local ballot measure.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

Jim Camden