Sunday, January 13, 2008

Donor Anonymity and State Universities

The Wall Street Journal reports that there is a growing trend of large donors seeking to remain anonymous according to analysis by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, but that it is often a difficult wish for receiving organizations to honor, especially public universities.  It cites, among other examples, the case of University of California at Irvine, which revealed the source of a $20 million donation for its new law school after public criticism for not disclosing the donor's identity.  Concerned that such disclosures could reduce charitable giving, the article reports that both Colorado and Georgia recently passed laws to allow publicly funded schools to keep anonymous donors' names private - presumably to avoid any claims that state freedom of information laws could require disclosure.  The article also reports that a similar law in Kentucky is currently being challenged before that state's Supreme Court. 

Further inquiry determined that this case is University of Louisville Foundation, Inc. v. Cape Publications, Inc. (Case No. 2005-SC-000454).  The University of Louisville Foundation raises funds for the University of Louisville.  Cape Publications, which publishes the Louisville Courier-Journal, sought access to the Foundation's donor records under Kentucky's Open Records Act.  The Foundation, relying on the above-mentioned statutory exception for donor information, refused.  The appellate court, in an unreported opinion available the Kentucky Supreme Court's website (search for the 2003 Court of Appeals opinion involving the "University of Louisville Foundation"), ruled in the Foundation's favor, finding that the exception protected all donor information from public release.  Cape Publications appealed, and the Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments in March 2007 but has yet to issue an opinion.


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