Saving Our Streams unfairly singled out
I am concerned about the growing call for “transparency” on the part of donors to nonprofits such as Saving Our Streams. I have been involved with nonprofits for many years. Most groups publish a list of donors as part of their annual reports and in their newsletters. Often there are a few donors who wish to remain anonymous, and often these are substantial donors. You see them simply listed as “anonymous.” There is no legal requirement that donors to nonprofits be named in public.
Donors who wish to remain anonymous do so for many reasons, some simply because they don’t care for recognition and others because they fear business or other repercussions, even retaliation by groups or governments that might be made uncomfortable by the nonprofit they support. But that is their prerogative. It is protected free speech, something that papers such as the Aspen Daily News should understand. All nonprofits would face losing significant financial support if they were required to publicly name all their donors.
But when an entity such as Saving Our Streams is singled out like this, it becomes something different. It has a chilling effect on all nonprofits and their work. Saving Our Streams is being targeted specifically by the governmental entity to which they are a “bother.” That should be troubling to all of us, even those who support the city’s positions. It is no longer a legitimate question of transparency. Now it is becoming an old-fashioned witch hunt. “Transparency” in this case becomes a tool of intimidation, an attempt to suppress free speech from a government that doesn’t like what is being said. Who’s next on the city’s list of disagreeable opponents?
The city itself is famously opaque. They have yet to disclose the amount of money spent on the well organized advertising and propaganda campaign they have mounted. How much more have they gone over budget with high priced consultants being paid to prop up their increasingly tenuous position? This is taxpayer money, so I guess all the citizens of Aspen are the “donors,” whether they want to be or not.
Rather than engage in a fear mongering witch hunt looking for billionaire boogie men, perhaps the city should spend more time trying to justify their actions in a legitimate, honest and transparent means, if they can.
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