Private Donations and Enemies of Debate

Why we do not report the identities of our donors

From shutting down free speech at events, to forcing nonprofits to publicly report the names and addresses of their donors in the hope of discouraging future contributions, there is a concerted national effort by the left to shut down open and robust public debate.

In response to repeated questions and baseless accusations about our funding sources, including inane claims of moneys received from “the Russians”, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity makes the following points:

The vast majority of the Center’s funding is derived from over 500 in-state private donors, who support our mission to see Rhode Islanders live and work in a freer society. The occasional grants the Center may be awarded from national foundations are earned via a competitive grant application process in support of policy initiatives conceived by the Center.

There is no regular source of funding to our Center from any out of state group that seeks to influence our operations.

It is curious why our critics fail to understand that there are many, many concerned citizens in our state who share the Center’s free-enterprise vision. Such donors voluntarily choose to financially support our mission to put forth policy ideas to realize our vision to achieve increased freedom and prosperity, They, like us, believe that all citizens should be able to freely engage in a robust and honest public debate about such ideas.

The Center’s staff and Board of Directors make 100% of the decisions about which policy angles to pursue. We do not do the bidding of any outside group, however the interests of our Center and certain state and national foundations may occasionally overlap.

As an IRS designated 501(c)3 organization, all gifts to our Center, by individuals or businesses, are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Our Center also has a long-standing policy not to accept public money or taxpayer funding from governmental agencies.

Regarding the issue of transparency, it is important to note the legal differences between private organizations like our Center, and public entities like government and election campaigns.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled and upheld that private nonprofit organizations that are funded by private contributions, in order to protect donors from recrimination by corrupt government officials or by over-zealous extremists in the general public (ex., as experienced by early supporters of the NAACP), may keep the identities of their donors private.
  • Conversely, government operations and campaigns for elected office, since they directly involve taxpayer money or public office, are considered as public entities, and therefore should be transparent about and held publicly accountable for their funding sources.
  • Advocating for or against public policy, per multiple federal court rulings, is considered a private and protected first-Amendment right and does not require public disclosure.

For these reasons, the official policy of our Center is to exercise our constitutional right to keep the identities of our donors private; and to protect them from potential recrimination by those who choose not to engage in honest and open debate.

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