At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal…
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Quote of the Day: Taxpayer Privacy and IRS Abuse

At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) remains among our most important missions.  Among the abuses that we've chronicled is the case of convicted criminal Charles Littlejohn, who rejoined the IRS in 2017 with the specific purpose of illegally breaching and leaking the private tax returns of Donald Trump and other Americans to radical left-wing organizations like ProPublica.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, one of those victims speaks out on his own experience and the need for greater taxpayer protection against this recurring problem that should terrify all Americans of every political persuasion.  Ira Stoll, whose tax information was passed to ProPublica, even helpfully details how…[more]

May 29, 2024 • 11:28 AM

Liberty Update

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Court Halts Liberal Campaign to Intimidate Conservative Donors Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, May 05 2016
Despite that Supreme Court decision, public officials and vindictive private citizens persist in demanding access to membership records and donor lists of conservative and libertarian organizations whose missions they deem unacceptable.

Throughout American history, our First Amendment freedoms of speech and association have frequently demanded the security of anonymity. 

Without that protective anonymity, Americans seeking to bring about political change or introduce politically incorrect opinions into the marketplace of ideas risk persecution by government officials or public vigilantes.  Even James Madison and Alexander Hamilton authored the Federalist Papers under pseudonyms, and today's world of cyberstalking, Google Earth and Internet shaming make protective anonymity even more vital. 

During the civil rights era in 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court squarely addressed the issue of anonymity as it relates to freedom of speech and association it NAACP v. Alabama.  What the Court held then rings just as true today. 

In that case, Alabama officials had demanded that the NAACP surrender membership lists and other records in a transparent effort to silence and intimidate its supporters.  The Supreme Court rejected their effort and held that compulsory disclosure of the sort mandated by state authorities rendered members' First Amendment rights effectively void: 

"[O]n past occasions revelation 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 the consequences of this exposure." 

The Court went out of its way to emphasize that its concern extended to harassment by private individuals just as much as public officials: 

"It is not sufficient to answer, as the State does here, that whatever repressive effect compulsory disclosure of names of petitioner’s members may have upon participation by Alabama citizens in petitioner’s activities follows not from state action but from private community pressures.  The crucial factor is the interplay of governmental and private action, for it is only after the initial exertion of state power represented by the production order that private action takes hold." 

Despite that Supreme Court decision, public officials and vindictive private citizens persist in demanding access to membership records and donor lists of conservative and libertarian organizations whose missions they deem unacceptable.  Anyone requiring confirmation need only look to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) harassment of pro-Israel and conservative nonprofit groups, or California citizens driven from their jobs simply for advocating a position on marriage that a majority of state voters supported at the ballot box. 

A recent federal court ruling in California vindicates donor privacy and the logic underlying NAACP v. Alabama

Since 2013, Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris has targeted nonprofit groups to fuel her political career and solidify her liberal bona fides.  Specifically, she has attempted to force nonprofit groups to surrender unredacted donor lists and identifying information. 

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), an organization Barack Obama demonized by name, decided to fight back against this unconstitutional intrusion into donors' First Amendment rights.  And in an encouraging opinion, Judge Manuel Real (appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, it should be noted) cited NAACP v. Alabama in enjoining Attorney General Harris's scheme. 

The Attorney General rationalized her campaign by claiming that she merely sought to prevent "self-dealing" and "improper loans," even though AFP isn't in the banking business.  Judge Real dismissed that claim, holding that, "over the course of trial, the Attorney general was hard pressed to find a single witness who could corroborate the necessity of Schedule B forms in conjunction with their office's investigations." 

Ominously, Judge Real also highlighted his "serious concern" over the way in which the Attorney General's office failed to make good on its claim to protect donor information from public disclosure.  "[T]he Attorney General has systematically failed to maintain the confidentiality of Schedule B forms," Judge Real noted, recognizing that AFP supporters had suffered harassment and retaliation as a result. 

Appropriately, Judge Real concluded by reaffirming NAACP v. Alabama:  "[A]lthough the Attorney General correctly points out that such abuses are not as violent or pervasive as those encountered in NAACP v. Alabama or other cases from that era, this Court is not prepared to wait until an AFP opponent carries out one of the numerous death threats made against its members." 

Government officials simply cannot be trusted with confidential information on the candidates and issues we as private citizens choose to support.  Similarly, our neighbors, employers, coworkers or others who wish us harm cannot be trusted with sensitive information including our names, addresses, telephone numbers and places of employment simply for exercising our First Amendment rights. 

Thankfully, some judges continue to elevate First Amendment rights over ongoing efforts to diminish them. 

Notable Quote   
"Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says Democrats have tipped their hand to their desire to unleash noncitizen voting by opposing his state's citizenship verification in court and he is urging elections chiefs in other states to fight such lawsuits.Georgia's citizenship verification system has prevented noncitizens from getting on state voter rolls, but the state had to defend it in court…[more]
— Natalia Mittelstadt, Just the News
Liberty Poll   

Which would be the most useful for voters: a televised presidential debate that only includes Trump and Biden or one that adds Kennedy?