In last week's Liberty Update, we highlighted the Heritage Foundation's 2022 Index of Economic Freedom…
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Image of the Day: More Economic Freedom = Higher Standard of Living

In last week's Liberty Update, we highlighted the Heritage Foundation's 2022 Index of Economic Freedom, which shows that Joe Biden has dragged the U.S. down to 22nd, our lowest rank ever (we placed 4th in the first Index in 1995, and climbed back up from 18th to 12th under President Trump).  As we noted, among the Index's invaluable metrics is how it demonstrates the objective correlation between more economic freedom and higher citizen standards of living, which this graphic illustrates:

 …[more]

May 19, 2022 • 12:53 PM

Liberty Update

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Tax Reform Bill Must Include Donor Privacy Protection from IRS Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, June 22 2017
The simple truth is that the First Amendment freedoms of speech, association and political participation can be chilled by forced exposure of donors' personal information.

"The role of money in politics is a major problem.  And particularly the role of unchecked anonymous money.  There have been super-PACs in Washington who have been putting up tens of millions of dollars in attack ads for months now."

Talk about chutzpah. 

That was Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate for Congress from Georgia's sixth district, speaking to National Public Radio during a week in which he lost his race against Republican Karen Handel. 

It's particularly rich coming from a man who spent a record $32 million on his campaign - exceeding his Republican opponent by $9 million - and who raised $23 million primarily from leftist donors in California and other states outside of Georgia. 

Beyond its value as farcical amusement, Ossoff's sheer brazenness highlights liberals' ongoing, near-maniacal campaign to restrict Americans' First Amendment rights to donate privately to causes or candidates they happen to support without paying a public price. 

As recent events tragically demonstrate, today's increasingly acrimonious and even violent political environment, combined with the ability to access donors' intimate identifying information online, makes privacy more important than ever. 

The question boils down to this:  Are you comfortable with potentially vindictive government officials, your employer, your neighbors or anyone who wishes you ill solely on the basis of your political beliefs possessing sensitive information such as your name, address, phone number, employer and other data because you donated to a cause or candidate they disfavor? 

People like Ossoff who support regulation of free speech advocate laws compelling nonprofit groups to disclose personal information about their donors.  They repeat the superficially alluring rationale that such laws limit "dark money"  and promote "transparency." 

But their real goal is to chill speech and political participation by people and groups whose viewpoints they find objectionable. 

After all, it's not conservatives you see around the nation's streets and college campuses engaging in censorship of liberal speech, but rather the converse.  It's not liberal donors who most often lose their jobs, suffer boycotts or get attacked for expressing their beliefs.  It wasn't liberal organizations that were widely targeted by Lois Lerner and IRS officials, but conservatives. 

The simple truth is that the First Amendment freedoms of speech, association and political participation can be chilled by forced exposure of donors' personal information. 

The U.S. Supreme Court squarely addressed this issue in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), when state officials demanded disclosure of that organization's sensitive membership data.  In a unanimous decision, the Court rightly recognized that forced disclosure of donors and members would cripple its ability to engage in First Amendment activity: 

"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." 

Since that decision, citizens' right to privately engage in political activity has eroded in the era of McCain-Feingold and similar laws at the federal, state and local levels.  As a direct consequence, we increasingly witness citizens being driven from their jobs or targeted by government officials like Ms. Lerner. 

The good news is that Congress can - and should - act quickly to rectify this increasingly pressing problem. 

Last year, the House of Representatives passed a law entitled the "Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act."  That legislation would've prohibited the IRS from forcing nonprofit organizations to surrender their confidential donors' identifying information. 

Under current law, nonprofit organizations must disclose private donor information to the IRS on Schedule B of their tax returns. While the Schedule B is supposed to remain confidential, in recent years, such disclosure led to the leaking of the National Organization for Marriage's confidential donor data. Additionally, politically motivated state attorneys general have demanded confidential donor information in their climate change alarmist crusade. 

Accordingly, the House acted to protect private donors, as the bill's sponsor Congressman Peter Roskam (R - Illinois) cogently summarized: 

"We voted to eliminate a confidential form the IRS proved incapable of securing.  The agency has said it doesn't even need this form for tax administration in the first place.  Either one of these facts should be reason enough to eliminate an onerous regulation.  In this case, we have both."  

Although Senator Tim Scott (R - South Carolina) introduced similar legislation, it failed to become law during the Obama Administration. 

Accordingly, it's critical that Congress act to protect Americans' right to privacy as it relates to political participation.  And tax reform legislation provides the perfect vehicle for accomplishing it. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R - Wisconsin) has said that this is the moment to "fix this nation's tax code, once and for all." 

That includes protection of Americans' First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly and political participation from IRS recklessness or intentional targeting of people and groups whom they disfavor. 

Quiz Question   
How many days does it take the average U.S. household to consume as much electrical power as one single bitcoin transaction?
More Questions
Notable Quote   
 
"The trial of former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann crossed a critical threshold Friday when a key witness uttered the name 'Hillary Clinton' in conjunction with a plan to spread the false Alfa Bank Russian collusion claim before the 2016 presidential election.For Democrats and many in the media, Hillary Clinton has long held a Voldemort-like status as 'She who must not be named' in scandals…[more]
 
 
—Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University
— Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University
 
Liberty Poll   

Should any U.S. government agency have a function called the "Disinformation Governance Board" (See Homeland Security, Department of)?