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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

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As Justice Kennedy Retires, Supreme Court Finally Ends Compulsory Public-Union Dues Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, June 28 2018
[T]he majority ruled that states and public-sector unions may no longer forcibly extract payment from unwilling employees. That violates the First Amendment, as the freedoms of association and speech mean that people must freely choose to support the behavior in which unions engage.

Groucho Marx famously observed, "I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." 

For decades, millions of American public-sector workers who were forced to join unions have pleaded, "I don't want to belong to any club that would force me to become a member." 

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court finally granted relief to those millions of people.  No longer must they pay involuntary membership dues to powerful unions that serve as conduits for political contributions to leftist candidates and social causes. 

And with the Justice Anthony Kennedy's subsequent retirement announcement, the narrow 5-4 decision highlights once again the critical importance of securing conservative judges and justices in our precariously balanced Supreme Court and throughout the rest of the judicial branch. 

In Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Supreme Court addressed a lawsuit filed by Illinois state employee Mark Janus, who declined to join a union whose political activities and collective bargaining positions he opposed.  Under Illinois law, however, non-members were forced to pay what are known as "agency fees" to unions to cover whatever they decree germane to collective bargaining activities.  In Mr. Janus's case, that agency fee unsurprisingly amounted to approximately 80% of full union dues. 

Unfortunately, the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that hasn't aged well in the ensuing four decades supported the union's position.  Consequently, the federal District Court and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Mr. Janus's lawsuit. 

In a welcome decision and astonishingly blunt terms, however, a majority overruled Abood and restored the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association to millions of public sector workers: 

The State's extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public sector employees violates the First Amendment.  Abood erred in concluding otherwise, and stare decisis cannot support it.  Abood is therefore overruled.  Abood's holding is inconsistent with standard First Amendment principles.  Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable raises serious First Amendment concerns.  That includes compelling a person to subsidize the speech of other private speakers. 

And in withering language, the majority eviscerated not only the illogic of Abood, but also the justifications offered for compulsory union membership: 

The Union claims that Abood is supported by the First Amendment's original meaning.  But neither founding-era evidence nor dictum supports the view that the First Amendment was originally understood to allow States to force public employees to subsidize a private third party.  If anything, the opposite is true...  Abood was poorly reasoned, and those arguing for retaining it have recast its reasoning, which further undermines its stare decisis effect...  Developments since Abood, both factual and legal, have "eroded" the decision's "underpinnings" and left it an outlier among the Court's First Amendment cases.  Abood relied on an assumption that "the principle of exclusive representation in the public sector is dependent on a union or agency shop," but experience has shown otherwise.  It was also decided when public-sector unionism was a relatively new phenomenon.  Today, however, public-sector union membership has surpassed that in the private sector, and that ascendency corresponds with a parallel increase in public spending.  Abood is also an anomaly in the Court's First Amendment jurisprudence, where exacting scrutiny, if not a more demanding standard, generally applies.  Overruling Abood will also end the oddity of allowing public employers to compel union support (which is not supported by any tradition) but not to compel party support. 

Accordingly, the majority ruled that states and public-sector unions may no longer forcibly extract payment from unwilling employees.  That violates the First Amendment, as the freedoms of association and speech mean that people must freely choose to support the behavior in which unions engage. 

In an age in which unions donate upwards of 90% of their political dollars toward leftist candidates and causes, the Supreme Court's decision will in turn prove dramatically consequential, as it already has in states like Wisconsin that instituted reform and witnessed immediate declines in union membership. 

As pivotal swing Justice Kennedy retires, it's important to remember that four justices remained willing to allow forcible union dues payment to perpetuate their political power. 

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?