DMA's Nonprofit Federation Supports Suit Against Jefferson County

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The Direct Marketing Association's Nonprofit Federation has become a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Jefferson County, KY, by Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group headed by Ralph Nader.

The suit, filed in June, alleges that in requiring charities to file extensive amounts of information about their organizations before sending mail solicitations to members of the community -- including the Social Security numbers of individuals involved in management of the soliciting charity -- the county violates federal postal laws, and the supremacy clause, the First Amendment and the commerce clause of the Constitution.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.

Reportedly, one of the main reasons Jefferson County has instituted these provisions is that regulators think county residents are receiving too much unsolicited mail from nonprofit mailers. Jefferson County includes Louisville.

"Jefferson County, one of the few in the country which requires charities to register prior to soliciting funds, has one of the nation's most intrusive and comprehensive statutes," said Lee Cassidy, executive director at the Nonprofit Federation, Washington.

He said that when soliciting citizens in Jefferson County, nonprofit organizations must file what methods they are using for solicitation, such as direct mail or telemarketing; the name of the bank where funds will be deposited; and the amount of money the organization expects to raise within the county. It also requires that any changes in filed information -- such as new telephone numbers for one of the five most senior managers of the charity -- must be reported within five business days.

In general, "there is an enormous amount of regulations here that is grossly intrusive and accomplishes nothing," Cassidy said.

Co-plaintiffs include Greenpeace and the Greenpeace Fund, People for the American Way, and American Charities for Reasonable Fundraising Regulation, which filed a similar suit against Pinellas County, FL, two years ago. The Pinellas suit was tried in federal appeals court last December and is awaiting adjudication.

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