Last month, U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro targeted a few dozen of his own constituents with a tweet that named San Antonio residents who had donated the maximum amount to President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. The purpose of his tweet was to harass and intimidate those individuals simply because they exercised their First Amendment rights.
Federal law requires, and has required for decades, that any donations by an individual to a candidate for office that total $200 or more in an election cycle be disclosed in quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission. This information is available and searchable online, and this requirement is not in doubt. It’s important to know who is giving money to a candidate because we need to understand who that candidate might favor while in office.
However, the purpose of political donor disclosure is not for harassing people who express their beliefs and participate in the civic process.
Some of the donors who were targeted by Representative Castro are already paying the price for his reckless behavior. “I think you’re a scumbag, and I f***ing despise everything you stand for,” said one person who called the voicemail of one of the named donors. “That’s why I’m calling you and filling up your voicemail with a bunch of bullsh*t. So, enjoy that. I will make sure to post this number and extension all over the Internet.”
Anger at political opponents has reached toxic levels and is threatening free speech rights and personal safety.
This is why it is so important that we protect the privacy of citizens who donate to nonprofit organizations. Some politicians and activists want to change the law to require public disclosure of the names and addresses of individuals who make contributions to nonprofits. The reason they want this information is so they can use it to police the views of American citizens and silence debate.
You have a right to support causes you believe in without fear of harassment and intimidation.
Castro Weaponizes Campaign Finance Disclosure Against Ordinary Texans
By Matt Miller, Goldwater Institute
Doxing Trump Donors Is Just the Beginning
By Bradley A. Smith, Institute for Free Speech
Political-Donor Disclosure Rules Need Reform, in the Age of Twitter Mobs
By John Fund, National Review
David Keating of the Institute for Free Speech joined senior National Review writer David French at National Review Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit to discuss the need for donor privacy.
David French and David Keating Warn of Dangers of House Dems’ Election-Reform Plan
Mairead McArdle, National Review
French called the proposal “unfair” and “grotesquely unconstitutional,” adding that it would constitute an “extreme intrusion” into private life and effectively treat political speech as “second-class speech.”
States Need to Ensure Donor Privacy — It’s Crucial to Freedom of Speech
Private citizens should not be subjected to government harassment for supporting causes they believe in, and charities should not have to worry about their funding drying up because donors fear reprisals. Yet many policy pundits on the left, and even a few on the right, have been doing all they can to convince lawmakers across the country that the government has a compelling interest in knowing to whom you give your after-tax money.
Privacy protected in Mississippi
Representatives Jerry Turner and Mark Baker
Most importantly, this law protects those who might have their private information targeted and revealed without their consent. Publicizing information about private charitable giving makes people give less to charity. But providing restitution will rightfully combat the efforts of those interested in making your information public. These public reveals chill the free expression of individuals.
Donors to Charities Can’t Be Exposed Under New Mississippi Law
Kevin Mooney, The Daily Signal
Mississippi’s governor has signed into law a donor privacy bill designed to protect the anonymity of those who give money to nonprofit charities.
Donor privacy bill dies in Iowa House
Jacob Hall, The Iowa Standard
Donor privacy is an issue that should not be partisan…Supporters for the bill include conservative organizations like the FAMiLY Leader, Americans for Prosperity and Iowans for Tax Relief. On the other side of the aisle, Planned Parenthood, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, OneIowa and the ACLU also support House File 697 as written.
There is broad public support for individual privacy protections. That is why on Thursday, March 28, 2019, Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill into law to ensure that the privacy of Mississippians is protected when exercising their free speech rights by supporting non-profit causes and charities.
H.B. 1205 ensures that the state’s public agencies shall not require any entity organized under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code to provide an agency with personal information about donors. The new law provides injunctive relief for violations of this act.
In signing the bill, Governor Bryant said, “In recent years, charitable donations have been weaponized by certain groups against individuals in order to punish donors whose political beliefs differ from their own. I was pleased today to sign House Bill 1205, which protects the free speech rights of Mississippians who generously make charitable contributions.”
Bill sponsors included Representatives Jerry Turner and Mark Baker. In commentary published in a Washington Times article, they explained that, “in Mississippi…independent polling of regular voters showed 81 percent supported legislation to protect privacy. Only a mere 11 percent would oppose ‘a law in Mississippi that protects the personal information of individuals who donate to causes and charities of their choice.'”
Turner and Baker went on to say that, “most importantly, this law protects those who might have their private information targeted and revealed without their consent” and “providing restitution will rightfully combat the efforts of those interested in making your information public.”
Thank you to Mississippi leaders for protecting the free speech rights of Mississippi citizens. People United for Privacy encourages policymakers in other states to follow their lead.
Following are a few noteworthy articles and op-eds about donor privacy that have been published recently.
Amy Oliver Cooke
In Colorado, it seems that some Democrats want to flip the free speech and privacy paradigms. They want to expose individuals and limit speech when it has to do with politics and viewpoints with which they may disagree.
I was troubled to read Bill Crawford’s recent op-ed about “dark money.” It’s not honest, it’s not fair, and it’s not transparent. Bill Crawford is lying about House Bill 1205.
Bradley A. Smith and Annette Meeks
The Star Tribune Editorial Board has called for the Legislature to expand campaign disclosure laws to apply to any group that runs ads mentioning candidates. This policy would cover a whole lot more than campaign ads, and it would carry nasty side effects. Some at the State Capitol are responding to this misguided request for so-called transparency through legislation. But make no mistake about it: Transparency is for government; privacy is for citizens.
David Keating and Amol Sinha
When policy harms the people, our democracy relies on civic and advocacy organizations to mobilize and hold government accountable. Unfortunately, a bill in the New Jersey Legislature threatens to upend that fundamental check on power and silence many of the voices that speak truth by interfering with privacy and exposing personal information.