Echoing CFIF, today's Wall Street Journal board editorial applauds Federal Communications Commission…
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WSJ Applauds FCC Chairman Pai, Commissioner Carr in Support of T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

Echoing CFIF, today's Wall Street Journal board editorial applauds Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai's and Commissioner Brendan Carr's expressions of support for the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger:

By joining forces, T-Mobile and Sprint will be better positioned to compete against wireless leaders Verizon and AT&T in the 5G era.   Sprint is sitting on loads of mid-band spectrum that boosts wireless speeds while T-Mobile boasts ample low-band spectrum that provides coverage.  The combination is likely to provide a faster, denser network."

As they rightly conclude, "government penalties pale next to the powerful market incentives that already exist for Sprint and T-Mobile to rapidly build out their networks lest they lose market share to Verizon, AT&T, cable…[more]

May 21, 2019 • 11:36 am

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1st Amendment: Donor Privacy, Not Donor Exposure, Promotes Functioning Democracy Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, August 13 2015
Free speech and political participation in today's Internet society demands confidentiality, not forced disclosure of personal information to government.

Do you trust the government with information on the political candidates, issue organizations and causes you support, alongside such sensitive personal data as your name, address, phone number and employer? 

Should surrendering such information be a condition for simply exercising your First Amendment freedoms of speech and private association? 

Are you in turn comfortable with neighbors, coworkers or anyone else with an Internet connection knowing which candidates or causes you support?  Should people who donate to certain charities, groups, candidates or movements be exposed to termination, boycott of their employer or even violence simply because someone else considers their viewpoint objectionable? 

Those questions carry elevated significance in an era of Lois Lerner and IRS persecution of conservatives as the 2016 election approaches.  Consider also the disturbing ease with which Chinese, Russian and terrorist hackers access government servers and citizens' personal information. 

More than ever, our freedom to support candidates and causes in which we believe depends upon privacy and assurance against the threat of retaliation and harassment. 

Unfortunately, the opposite movement is gaining traction at the federal, state and local levels across America.  Specifically, groups and officials hoping to regulate speech and silence dissent are promoting laws that would compel nonprofit groups to disclose personal information of their donors.  Advocates of such laws offer the false justification of ending "dark money" or promoting "transparency."  While such rhetoric maintains a superficial populist appeal, the real-world consequence is the chilling of speech and persecution of everyday Americans just for supporting a particular point of view. 

One would've thought that the Supreme Court settled this question in its 1958 NAACP v. Alabama decision, when that state's Jim Crow government sought to compel disclosure of the organization's membership information.  The Court unanimously rejected that demand, recognizing that it would stifle free speech and subject supporters to retaliation: 

"This Court has recognized the vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one's associations.  Compelled disclosure of membership in an organization engaged in advocacy of particular beliefs is of the same order.  Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs." 

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court inexplicably undermined those same rights in its 2010 Doe v. Reed decision.  Even there, however, the Court acknowledged that donor privacy could be protected where the plaintiff demonstrates, "a reasonable probability that the compelled disclosure will subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisals from either government officials or private parties." 

What should've been obvious to the majority is that numerous recent examples demonstrate the very real threat of that type of retaliation. 

In California, for instance, Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich was infamously forced to resign after his support of Proposition 8 (the traditional marriage amendment that passed with a 52% majority) became public. 

Or consider the example of restaurant manager Margie Christoffersen, who was targeted after donating a mere $100 to an organization supporting traditional marriage, as detailed by even the left-leaning Los Angeles Times:  

"Christoffersen was a manager at El Coyote, the Beverly Boulevard landmark restaurant that's always had throngs of customers waiting to get inside.  Many of them were gay, and Christoffersen, a devout Mormon, donated $100 in support of Proposition 8, the successful November ballot initiative that banned gay marriage.  She never advertised her politics or religion in the restaurant, but last month her donation showed up on lists of 'for' and 'against' donors.  And El Coyote became a target. 

A boycott was organized on the Internet, with activists trashing El Coyote on restaurant review sites.  Then came throngs of protesters, some of them shouting 'shame on you' at customers.  The police arrived in riot gear one night to quell the angry mob.  The mob left, but so did the customers.  Sections of the restaurant have been closed, a manager told me Friday during a very quiet lunch hour.  Some of the 89 employees, many of them gay, have had their hours cut, and layoffs are looming." 

And with regard to the aforementioned IRS scandal, persecution extended well beyond Lois Lerner.  As just one example, the pro-Israel group J Street was told by agents that "because the organization was 'connected to Israel,' its application for tax-exempt status would receive additional scrutiny." 

Innumerable other examples abound.  But what's clear is that forced disclosure does little to improve the political process, while doing much to intimidate potential donors, chill core political speech, infringe on the freedom of private association and threaten legitimate organizations - particularly conservative and libertarian ones. 

Free speech and political participation in today's Internet society demands confidentiality, not forced disclosure of personal information to government.  Such disclosure opens the door to persecution by bureaucrats, as in the case of Lois Lerner and the IRS, or harassment by others, including criminals and even terrorist groups. 

Accordingly, rather than support efforts to compel surrender of personal donor information, we must instead proactively pass donor privacy laws at all levels of American governance.  Only by protecting donor privacy can we protect the First Amendment. 

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