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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Virginia Donor Privacy Bill Takes a Hit...

The University of Virginia’s desire to conceal the identities of its financial donors who wish to stay anonymous hit a snag Thursday.

Lawmakers in a House of Delegates subcommittee declined to endorse a bill that would allow UVa to exempt anonymous donors’ identities from Virginia’s open records law. UVa officials assert that if they cannot promise that certain donors’ names will be hidden from the public, those potential benefactors will choose not to open their checkbooks.

“I want to allow UVa to do everything it says it needs to do to raise money for its endowment,” said Del. Glenn Oder, R-Newport News, who introduced the bill at UVa’s request. Sen. R. Edward Houck, R-Spotsylvania, has filed an identical version of the bill in the Senate.

Citing concerns over potential conflicts of interest, the House subcommittee asked UVa to return next week with amendments to the bill that would ensure anonymous donors do not gain an unfair advantage in real estate deals, procurement or admissions.

“There are some very unsavory people out there who have a lot of money and who might want to give donations,” said Del. Terrie L. Suit, R-Virginia Beach. “It gives me pause that they could give anonymously.”

The bill would do more than just shield the names of UVa’s anonymous contributors. It would also exempt from the Freedom of Information Act a long list of personal information about more than 450,000 potential donors - including their financial worth, date of birth, marital status and Social Security numbers - that the university keeps in a vast computer database.

More here.

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