In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and…
CFIF on Twitter CFIF on YouTube
First Amendment Rights: Good News from the IRS on Donor Privacy

In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and First Amendment expression, there’s actually good news to report.

In fact, that positive development comes from none other than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which few people typically consider a font of good news.

Specifically, the IRS just announced a proposed rule to stop requiring nonprofit organizations to file what’s known as a Form 990 Schedule B, which exposes sensitive donor information not only to the federal government and potential rogues like former IRS official Lois Lerner, but also people who seek to access and use that information to target people on the basis of political belief.

As we at CFIF have long asserted, this welcome move will help protect the…[more]

September 12, 2019 • 11:07 am

Liberty Update

CFIFs latest news, commentary and alerts delivered to your inbox.
Jester's CourtroomLegal tales stranger than stranger than fiction: Ridiculous and sometimes funny lawsuits plaguing our courts.
Pelosi House’s Top Priority: Chilling First Amendment Speech and Privacy Rights Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, January 10 2019
Collecting and maintaining donor profiles only opens the door to vindictive government officials, employers, neighbors or anyone with a grudge to obtain such sensitive information in order to target others out of sheer political disagreement.

Well, the new Nancy Pelosi-led House of Representatives has made its top priority clear. 

It's outing American citizens for their political beliefs and the causes they support, threatening our First Amendment freedoms of speech, association and political participation. 

Among the provisions of the just-introduced H.R. 1, to which they’ve affixed the Orwellian title "For the People Act of 2019," donors to non-profit organizations would have their identifying personal information forcibly disclosed to government authorities and potential hackers. 

Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D - New York) and leftists insist on knowing which causes and types of organizations you support, even if those organizations don't even endorse or oppose political candidates. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

This sort of agenda possesses a long and sordid history.

In fact, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court condemned the practice in a 1958 decision involving segregationist state government demands to access identifying information on supporters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in NAACP v. Alabama.  The Court rightfully recognized that forcing the NAACP to surrender its membership rolls to antagonistic government officials or vindictive members of the general public would threaten members' safety and the organization's very existence: 

"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."

More recently, rogue IRS officials like Lois Lerner have targeted organizations and donors whose viewpoints they find objectionable.  Similarly, state attorneys general have sought access to donor and membership information, so that they could harass and silence groups and their supporters. 

Moreover, the potential threat isn't limited to malfeasant government officials, whether at the federal, state or local levels.  As just one example, donor records for the National Organization for Marriage were leaked, exposing those donors to potential harassment or even worse threats.  Across the nation, people have been terminated from employment, stalked at their homes and had their workplaces picketed merely because they supported causes that someone out there detested. 

That sort of harassment is only possible if government is allowed to forcibly collect and retain information identifying people for the beliefs they support.  And for years, that's exactly what it did. 

Until very recently, the IRS required non-profit organizations to file something known as a "990 Schedule B" form.  Those forms revealed the names, addresses and other private information regarding many of the organizations' donors.  That, in turn, exposed those donors to the sort of targeting and threats described above. 

Here's the kicker:  The IRS was prohibited by law from actually utilizing that private information for any substantive purpose.  In other words, all that collecting such private information did was expose people to harassment, since government officials wouldn't use it for official business. 

Fortunately, the Trump Administration finally ended that practice of IRS collection last year.  It clarified that non-profit groups would no longer be forced to surrender the sort of private identifying information on certain donors to the government. 

A subsequent effort by Senators Jon Tester (D - Montana) and Ron Wyden (D - Oregon) to overturn the Trump Administration action last year rightfully failed.  But now Pelosi and the more leftist House she leads stubbornly seek another shot. 

There's simply no defensible logic to reviving the old practice.  The only thing that collecting private information on donors does is frighten people away from supporting causes that people like Pelosi or Schumer find intolerable.  Collecting and maintaining donor profiles only opens the door to vindictive government officials, employers, neighbors or anyone with a grudge to obtain such sensitive information in order to target others out of sheer political disagreement. 

This effort deserves to die yet another death, and American citizens should not be misled into believing that it's anything other than a threat to our First Amendment freedoms. 

The Trump Administration merits our praise for its fortitude on this issue, and the cause demands our continued vigilance. 

Question of the Week   
On September 17 of which one of the following years was the U.S. Constitution sent to Congress for ratification by the states?
More Questions
Quote of the Day   
 
"An FBI assistant to James Comey says in a book released Tuesday that the former FBI director took advantage of the 'chaos' of the early Trump administration to set up an interview with Michael Flynn, the national security adviser.Josh Campbell, who was Comey's personal assistant at the FBI, writes in 'Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI,' that FBI leadership had 'intense discussion…[more]
 
 
—Chuck Ross, Daily Caller
— Chuck Ross, Daily Caller
 
Liberty Poll   

Is the desire to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan in conflict with the lessons of September 11, 2001?