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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Donor Privacy Goes Before the Supreme Court, Just in Time Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, January 21 2021
The aim of this legislation is obvious. It seeks to identify and expose private citizens to public and governmental harassment on the basis of causes they happen to support.

Remember Lois Lerner and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting of conservative organizations during the Obama years?  

That tawdry episode almost seems quaint in retrospect.  

At least back then, Obama and leftists feigned remorse and attempted to deny material wrongdoing.  

Today, in contrast, the left openly advocates targeting and persecuting conservatives and conservative organizations.  Many people – including very powerful people and government officials – hope to destroy lives and livelihoods for no other reason than their distaste toward those people’s political, religious or social beliefs.  They’d love nothing more than to harass people, frighten them, silence them, make them unemployable, socially shame them and even destroy their lives.  They want to silence unfashionable organizations and the citizens who support them.  

And the first step in pursuing that anti-First Amendment agenda is to pass mandatory “donor disclosure” laws.  Once they can identify you, they can out you and persecute you.  

The bad news is that both the United States Senate and House of Representatives have introduced as their first new order of business legislation – S. 1 and H.R. 1, duplicitously entitled the “For the People Act” – to do just that.  

The better news is that the United States Supreme Court granted review of two First Amendment donor privacy cases out of California, and could finally rule such laws unconstitutional.  

To place the issue in proper context, the First Amendment freedoms of speech, association and petitioning government protect nonprofit organizations that allow private citizens to work together to achieve change and have their voices heard.  That, in turn, requires a degree of privacy, lest government officials or private actors attempt to chill First Amendment activity by identifying and harassing supporters of those organizations.  

The Supreme Court squarely affirmed that logic in its seminal 1958 NAACP v. Alabama decision.  In that case, Alabama officials sought to compel disclosure of the organization's membership information in order to harass them, but the Court unanimously held that compulsory disclosure would stifle free speech and subject supporters to retaliation:  

"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."  

Two centuries before that decision, our Founding Fathers advocated independence through use of anonymous pen names to protect their livelihoods and very lives.  Whether in the age of pamphlets or the internet, the right to privacy has remained crucial to freely exercising our First Amendment rights.  

The Senate and House bills S.1 and H.R.1, however, target those constitutional protections and contravene NAACP v. Alabama by forcing organizations to publicize donors’ identities and other private information.  

Specifically, those bills would make nonprofit organizations post donors’ personal information on searchable government databases.  They would also expand the definition of “electioneering communications” beyond their historical limitation to mass media campaigns involving candidates for office, to include online advertisements discussing issues of public concern and having nothing to do with any election or candidate.  

The proposed legislation would further regulate groups that refrain from political activity and only occasionally speak out about judicial nominations, requiring those organizations to identify their donors even if those donors had no involvement in those particular activities.  It would also impose mandatory identification of groups’ supporters on the faces of advertisements, which would obviously chill contributions to nonprofit groups.  It would also expand regulation of online speech beyond paid advertising to now include communications on groups’ or individuals’ own websites and emails, and it would deter private citizens from government service and political appointments by forcing them to disclose donations they’ve made to organizations and causes in the past.  

The aim of this legislation is obvious.  It seeks to identify and expose private citizens to public and governmental harassment on the basis of causes they happen to support.  That will do nothing to improve society or political culture, but instead chip away at already-eroding First Amendment rights.  

As we speak, mainstream media figures and prominent figures openly advocate “deprogramming” of conservatives, which sounds ominously similar to the Communist Chinese policy of “re-educating” millions of its own citizens in internment camps.  That is simply intolerable in a nation founded upon the principles of freedom of speech and private association.  

Fortunately, as noted above, the Supreme Court will review this matter in its current term.  Hopefully, the justices’ wisdom proves far superior to proponents of Senate and House bills S.1 and H.R.1, and they rule such donor disclosure mandates unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment once and for all.  

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?