Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent, and private citizens deserve protection from government overreach into their lives. These seem like simple concepts, right?
The establishment left in North Carolina seems to disagree. Progressives are performing acrobatic leaps to justify their opposition to two bills introduced this legislative session – and in doing so, are establishing a bizarre spectrum of privacy and transparency standards.
Senate Bill 636, Donor Privacy, would clarify in state law that state agencies and local governments cannot compel nonprofits to disclose their donor lists. This is a simple idea with sweeping support across the ideological spectrum nationally. It is easy to see why people who support nonprofits – Planned Parenthood or the NRA, for example – may want their support to remain private. Nonetheless, North Carolina progressives have drawn a hard line in the sand over the bill, leading to all 21 of North Carolina’s Senate Democrats present for the vote to oppose the bill.
Progressives claim that this is a cover for “dark money” in political contributions – an assertion that is quickly proven wrong by a simple read of the bill, which excludes electioneering disclosure requirements. WRAL’s PolitiFact found one Democratic Senator’s contention of that nature “Mostly False.”
For this inaccurate narrative, progressives have proven willing to sacrifice the privacy of individuals and corporations who support nonprofit organizations but would not want that support publicly disclosed.
Contrast this with the left’s treatment of House Bill 64, Government Transparency Act of 2021 (Language originally filed this session in Senate Bill 355). This bill requires a public record of state and local employees to include a general description of the reason for changes in their employment status, including promotions, demotions, transfers, suspensions, separations, and dismissals. The general description becomes part of the public record only after an employee has gone through the appeals process on the decision or the period for them to do so expires.
The North Carolina Press Association (NCPA) points out that this bill would allow the public to gain more information about law enforcement who are dismissed or teachers accused of sexual misconduct with their students. This type of public information mitigates the likelihood of bad apples simply finding a similar job in another county or state.
Those who believe government should steward taxpayer money responsibly have reason to support this bill. Public-sector employees are funded using taxpayer money; thus, taxpayers have the right to as much information as possible about how their money is being spent. This oversight should incentivize careful hiring practices and swift corrective measures for state and local employees.
The State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) and the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), along with the NC Justice Center, have been outspoken opponents of the bill. In their letter to legislators, NCAE claims that the information being made public by HB64 would “create a chilling effect on the first amendment rights of educators throughout the state.”
That concern rings hollow on this issue given the left’s opposition to the donor privacy bill. Government-manded disclosure of private donations is a true threat to people’s First Amendment right to free speech and association. Transparency regarding public-sector employees is needed oversight for the public to understand how their money is being spent.