In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and…
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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

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Castro “Doxxing” of Trump Supporters Reconfirms Need for Donor Privacy Legislation Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, August 15 2019
What this latest episode reconfirms is the need to end this unconstitutional abomination once and for all, and enact legislation protecting donor privacy.

In recent days, Representative Joaquin Castro (D – Texas), brother of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, used his high-profile platform to tweet the identities and occupations of local donors to President Donald Trump within his district. 

Those donors were everyday, ordinary citizens doing nothing more than exercising their legal rights to participate in America’s electoral process.  Yet for that they were intentionally targeted and exposed by this vindictive, petty, power-abusive man. 

Unfortunately, Representative Castro’s dangerous shenanigan was enabled by federal law, which compels disclosure of the names, addresses and employment data of anyone who donates just $200 to candidates for public office.  In some states, that minimum donation limit is even lower. 

What this latest episode reconfirms is the need to end this unconstitutional abomination once and for all, and enact legislation protecting donor privacy. 

The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;  or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;  or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” 

Accordingly, the Bill of Rights explicitly protects our fundamental freedoms of speech, press, assembly and petition of government.   Collectively, they make a functioning democratic republic possible. 

Conversely, you know what the Constitution does not protect? 

Other people’s vague, voyeuristic desire to dissect which candidates or political causes you support, or expose that information for your neighbors, your boss, your employees, your coworkers, your friends, your enemies or all the world to see. 

Indeed, as the United States Supreme Court affirmed in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), the practice of exposing such information has the effect of chilling the First Amendment’s core freedoms: 

Effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association, as this Court has more than once recognized by remarking upon the close nexus between the freedoms of speech and assembly.  It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the “liberty” assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech…  This Court has recognized the vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations…  

In that case, the Court held that the state of Alabama could not compel the NAACP to surrender its membership lists, due to the obvious chilling effect that it would have on their First Amendment freedoms. 

The Court rightly drew a straight-line connection between privacy of one’s associations and donations and the ability to exercise one’s First Amendment freedoms: 

[R]evelation of the identity of its rank-and-file members has exposed these members to economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility.  Under these circumstances, we think it apparent that compelled disclosure of petitioner’s Alabama membership is likely to affect adversely the ability of petitioner and its members to pursue their collective effort to foster beliefs which they admittedly have the right to advocate, in that it may induce members to withdraw from the Association and dissuade others from joining it because of fear of exposure of their beliefs shown through their associations and of the consequences of this exposure. 

That logic applies with even greater force today, given the ability to instantly identify, locate and stalk people whose political views one finds disagreeable. 

Indeed, in the aftermath of his stunt, Representative Castro brazenly admitted that such consequences were precisely his aim in doxxing the Trump donors.  Subjecting them to the “public hostility” referenced above by the Supreme Court was what he sought. 

In our upside-down contemporary political climate, too many people agree with Representative Castro.  They elevate the desire to know which Americans contribute to which candidates and causes over the actual First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly and political association.  Any society that elevates the former necessarily degrades the latter. 

But your freedoms of speech and political association are fundamental and explicitly enshrined in the Bill of Rights.  The dubious desire to expose people’s private donations to political candidates or causes, in contrast, is not. 

It’s time that federal law reflected that simple reality. 

Question of the Week   
On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists using which one of the following?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"There's an old joke often expressed well into banquets and conferences, where a speaker says, 'We're at the point where everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it.' We're already at that point with the Democratic primary debates. Tonight was a three-hour ordeal, and candidates largely repeated the arguments they made in the previous two debates. There's not much…[more]
 
 
—Jim Geraghty, National Review
— Jim Geraghty, National Review
 
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