- The bill requires nonprofits engaged in politics to disclose certain spending within 60 days of an election.
- Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill on Friday.
- The bill had the backing of GOP leadership but some conservative groups opposed it.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill on Friday requiring political nonprofits to disclose their spending ahead of an election.
“It requires more detailed reporting by PACs and candidates, and it also requires more disclosures of conflicts of interest by government officials,” said Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.
SB 1005 requires that when nonprofits use a candidate’s name or image, they must disclose expenditures of more than $5,000 that take place within 60 days of an election. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, sponsored the bill.
“That specific provision was a significant improvement,” said Dick Williams, state chair of Common Cause Tennessee. “I was very supportive of that overall bill.”
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But some nonprofits that don’t disclose funding or spending, such as Americans for Prosperity and Tennessee Stands, opposed the bill.
Tennessee Stands Executive Director Gary Humble said on his website the passage of the bill lacked transparency, and that it would hinder nonprofits’ free speech.
“Tennessee Stands’ efforts to simply inform voters on the actions of their legislators leading up to these important elections would be significantly hindered,” Humble said. “This bill is not about transparency. This bill is about protecting incumbents during a contentious election cycle.”
Humble is running against state Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, in the Aug. 4 Republican primary.
The state legislature and governor passed this bill in the wake of state Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, pleading guilty to wire fraud on March 8. Federal authorities investigated several other legislators for potential involvement in the scheme.
“Hopefully it will prevent the types of situations where someone is benefitting from a decision made in government, and they have a personal business that’s benefitting,” Fisher said. “I think that it should be helpful in providing more light and exposure on campaign finance.”
Americans for Prosperity did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Adam Friedman contributed to this report.