Charities bill inspired by KATU investigation moves forward

SALEM, Ore. -- A new bill inspired by a KATU Problem Solver investigation is going up for a vote in Salem. The bill would help the Oregon Department of Justice crack down on charities that hide their disciplinary histories.

The House Judiciary committee held a hearing on House Bill 4081 today. State Representative Vicki Berger (R-Salem) who sponsored the bill, said KATU's report on charities that misrepresent their pasts showed the need for a change in the law.

The KATU investigation found more two dozen cases of charities telling the state they had no disciplinary history when in fact they had, in some cases, adding up to thousands of dollars in penalties and settlements.

Berger said the Department of Justice does not have enough tools to punish the charities that deliberately hide their pasts on their annual registration forms, which ask charities if they have been disciplined.

"They might be a charity with a very, very bad record," said Berger. "They file a report, but if they lie on those reports, there's no enforcement action."

Berger's bill would allow the state to punish charities and give them a $2,000 fine if they are found to have willfully misrepresented themselves.

"Now, there's a consequence," said Berger.

Berger said some local nonprofits were concerned the state penalize small charities that made honest mistakes on their forms. But Berger said the law is designed to punish large, out-of-state charities that willfully hide their histories.

"We're not going after people who make an honest mistake. We're going after people who intend to deceive in some way," said Berger.

Berger said the House may vote on the bill at the end of this week.

"I didn't know about this without the KATU report," said Berger, "I am happy, when I see a problem, to fix it and to go to work on it. And that makes me feel good about this bill."

You can search the state's charities database to learn more about the charities registered in Oregon.