Democrat state Rep. Karin Derry is in a battle for re-election against Republican Eddie Andrews. After having served in the minority for the last two years, Derry has few — if any — legislative accomplishments under her belt.
Perhaps her brightest moment — or darkest if you’re an average Iowan — was when she killed a bill that would’ve strengthened protections for donors to nonprofit 501(c) organizations.
In the era of political retribution, donor privacy is desperately needed for those who support nonprofit 501(c) organizations.
Derry killed a bill that addressed a similar issue the U.S. Supreme Court had to address in 1958 in the landmark NAACP v. the State of Alabama decision. The State of Alabama attempted to obtain a list of NAACP members, likely with the intent to expose supporters of the civil rights movement. Their goal was to discourage involvement with the NAACP and chill support for the civil rights movement. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the NAACP, recognizing the freedom of association implied under the First Amendment.
During the 2019 legislative session, House File 697 was scheduled to be debated in the Iowa House, but it didn’t run. Rep. Chuck Isenhart, Derry’s Democrat colleague from Dubuque, praised Derry for “taking down” the “Republican bill.”
But it wasn’t a Republican bill at all. The bill was supported by Planned Parenthood, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, OneIowa and the ACLU.
The bill dealt specifically with donors to 501(c) organizations. Political action committees (PACs) are required to make their donors public per campaign finance law. PACs are completely different from 501(c) organizations.
This bill specifically protected the voices of average people. Individuals with substantial wealth often find creative ways to move money to make tracing it back difficult. It’s the individuals who are donating $5, $10, or even $100 who are in real jeopardy of having their personal information disclosed.
Rep. Derry’s amendment would have limited the scope of the bill to strictly 501(c)3 organizations. This amendment was likely designed to target conservative organizations under the guise of keeping “dark money” out of politics, but in reality, it stripped protections for groups across the political spectrum who supported the bill, including Planned Parenthood and the NAACP. This amendment would remove these protections for veterans’ organizations, including the American Legion, as well.
This bill passed out of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee without amendment on a bipartisan 20-1 vote.
Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris was in hot water over this issue as well. As California Attorney General, she illegally exposed the donors of 1,400 nonprofit organizations. This action, which the courts have so far upheld as unconstitutional, has resulted in death threats to many individuals.