The Bulletin Board

Lawmakers look to address AG’s concerns about ‘personal privacy’ bill

By: - April 19, 2022 3:15 pm
State House dome under cloudy skies

The House Judiciary Committee voted, 11-10, Thursday to recommend the full House amend Senate Bill 302. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A House committee is seeking to scale back a bill after the Charitable Trusts Unit said it would limit its ability to police nonprofits and charities for conflicts of interest and scams. But the new proposal still leaves concerns for the state, the unit’s spokesman said.

As introduced by a group of House and Senate members, Senate Bill 302 would limit the ability of the Charitable Trusts Unit, a division within the Attorney General’s Office, to get the names of donors, and allow it to obtain names of board members and the people who start a nonprofit only when it files an annual report. 

Diane Murphy Quinlan, assistant director of the unit, told lawmakers earlier this month that’s too late and would delay the state’s ability to identify and investigate conflicts of interest. She said the office does not request donor names except in rare cases, such as seeking restitution for donors who gave to a scam charity, she said.

The House Judiciary Committee voted, 11-10, Thursday to recommend the full House amend SB 302 to make only donor names confidential, leaving the name of registrants accessible to the state. But it would still prevent the state from making those names public.

“The Attorney General’s Office continues to have concerns about SB 302 as amended,” said spokesman Michael Garrity in an email. “The Charitable Trusts Unit would be prohibited from naming board members in public reports and required to file under seal any lawsuits and (an organization’s agreement to stop alleged wrongdoing) that identify individuals as volunteers or board members. This includes any lawsuits brought by the Charitable Trusts Unit seeking restitution against volunteers for misuse of charitable funds.”

Rep. Mark McLean, a Manchester Republican, told the committee he believes the amendment balances concerns of the Attorney General’s Office and nonprofits that want to shield donors from harassment and solicitations from other charities. Supporters include Americans for Prosperity, ACLU-NH, and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

The bill’s sponsors pitched it as upholding personal privacy.

Rep. Marjorie Smith, a Durham Democrat, voted for the amendment but against the bill, echoing Murphy Quinlan’s objections. 

“I think the amendment is a significant improvement over a very bad bill,” Smith said. 

“I think this is not a question of a personal privacy act. I think it’s been proposed and argued by people trying to protect their own interests, which might not necessarily be for the public good.” 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]