Chicago’s Nonprofit Lobbying Registration Process

Jan 13, 2020

Below is the January 2020 testimony of Arts Alliance Illinois’s Policy and Research Director before the Chicago Board of Ethics.

Good afternoon, my name is Jonathan VanderBrug, and I serve as Policy and Research Director for
Arts Alliance Illinois. The Alliance is a diverse coalition representing the more than 1,500 nonprofit
arts organizations in the City of Chicago.
We share the Board’s view that the City of Chicago should operate with transparency and the highest
ethical standards. The recently enacted nonprofit lobbying law, however, has caused concern and
uncertainty among nonprofit arts organizations, and many of them have grown more hesitant to
interact with city policymakers as a result.
We need the exact opposite – the participation of arts nonprofits in policy making should be
encouraged – given the challenges our communities face. Across Chicago, arts organizations are
civically engaged, advancing innovative, arts-informed solutions in areas such as community
development, health and wellness, and housing. These nonprofits are giving creative voice to
community concerns and views and helping inform city policymaking.
We urge the Board of Ethics to keep this mind – to avoid the unintended impediments to nonprofit
civic engagement – as it continues to clarify how the law will be applied.
We appreciate the three-month delay in enforcement of nonprofit registration. We are also grateful
for the Board’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the new law and to bring specificity to it. Board
staff have always responded quickly to our requests for assistance.
We look forward to reviewing the Board’s advisory opinions, maintaining the positive
communication, and providing whatever support we can to your deliberations and outreach. Thank
you for this opportunity to provide comment.