Could you be the next target of a politician’s tweet because of a cause you’ve supported?

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.

Read more:
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

Donor Privacy News – April 16, 2019

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
Jon Pritchett
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.

New state law protects privacy of Mississippians

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.

Donor Privacy News – March 26, 2019

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.
 
Jameson Taylor
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.

Donor Privacy News – March 1, 2019

Following are a few noteworthy articles and op-eds about donor privacy that have been published recently.

Coalition Letter in Opposition to H.R. 1
On Wednesday, FreedomWorks sent a coalition letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signed by representatives from more than 30 organizations against H.R. 1. This legislation would have the effect of nationalizing elections, make the Federal Elections Commission a partisan entity, and have a chilling effect on political speech.

H.R.1 or The Democrat Politician Protection Act (video)
Senator Mitch McConnnell
H.R.1. is a blatant power grab to give Washington bureaucrats control over what American citizens can say about politics, how we can say it, and how we cast our ballots.

NJ must protect identity of political donors
David Sukoff
Our legislators are confusing the right of citizens to privately engage in the political process with their own public personas.  Legislators publicly run for office and vote for the laws that impact our lives. That is why they are called public officials. As citizens we have a right to fund efforts questioning their motives and their votes. Given that we are not public officials, we have no obligation to expose ourselves. However, one legislator explained he was supporting the bill because citizens who engage in public policy should be subject to the same harassment he is.  Ironically, he asked that his name be withheld.

Rock Springs Investigation Shows the Dark Side of Campaign Finance Laws
Wyoming Liberty Group
A recent episode in Rock Springs shows the dark side of so-called campaign finance “reform”—all too often, these laws are not used to investigate and prosecute political corruption, but to punish or retaliate against free speech, undermining citizens’ First Amendment rights.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Budget Proposal Would Force Grassroots Activists to Register as Lobbyists
The Intercept
A lobbying proposal tucked away in Cuomo’s executive budget would lower the annual spending threshold for what counts as lobbying from $5,000 to $500 — requiring grassroots organizations, run largely by volunteers, that engage in even a bit of issue-based advocacy to register as lobbyists.

Statement on H.R. 1 from Former ACLU President Nadine Strossen

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“To exercise our free speech rights meaningfully and in order to advocate effectively for causes we support, we must be able to amplify our individual voices by working together with like-minded Americans in associations and organizations. Individuals must be able to join and support such groups without having their names and other private information disclosed, to avoid potential retaliation from others who disagree with some of the groups’ work. The Supreme Court unanimously recognized these crucial First Amendment rights in a landmark 1968 case protecting the right to join and support the NAACP anonymously. Just as these First Amendment rights were essential for the NAACP’s effective advocacy – indeed, even for its ongoing existence – these rights remain essential today for the ongoing advocacy of civil society groups across the ideological spectrum. However, provisions in the “DISCLOSE Act” (Title IV, Subtitle B) section of H.R. 1 would force nonprofit groups to publicly identify certain donors and members. This would deter individuals from exercising their First Amendment rights, thus not only undermining their freedom and democratic participation, but also undermining the vibrancy and diversity of civic groups and public discourse.”

-Nadine Strossen, Former President of the American Civil Liberties Union

Donor Privacy News – January 15, 2019

Following are a few noteworthy articles and op-eds about donor privacy that have been published recently.

WSJ: Majority Preservation Act – The first House Democratic bill aims to hamstring opponents
By The Editorial Board
House Democrats are up and running, and their first bill is instructive. Couched as an anti-corruption and good-government measure, it is really an attempt to silence or obstruct political opponents.

Star Tribune: In thinking of disclosure laws, don’t forget the value of anonymous speech
By Daniel N. Rosen, Minneapolis attorney and a member of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
Anonymous speech is deeply ingrained in our American democratic tradition. American democracy not only permits anonymous speech, it depends upon it.

Tulsa World: Privacy needed to protect free speech
By Jonathan Small, President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission may have the best intentions, but limits on government power are not about good intentions. They come from the real-world experience of the risks of giving small groups of elites and unelected bureaucrats too much power over everybody else. And no limits are more precious than those that protect our political freedoms, the rights to think, speak and assemble free of government interference. Transparency is for government agencies and officials exercising government power. Privacy is for people.

The Orange County Register: Federal campaign finance reform helps special interests
By Ron Paul
Supporters of groups with “dissident beliefs” have good reason to fear new disclosure laws. In 2014, the IRS had to pay $50,000 dollars to the National Organization for Marriage because an IRS employee leaked donors’ names to the organization’s opponents. Fortunately, the Trump administration has repealed the regulation forcing activist groups to disclose their donors to the IRS. Unfortunately, Congress seems poised to reinstate that rule.

Detroit News Opinion: Protect Michigan nonprofit donors’ privacy

Following is an excerpt from an opinion editorial piece by Sean Parnell of the Philanthropy Roundtable that appeared recently in the Detroit News.

Anonymous donations to charities and other nonprofits are a deeply ingrained part of our nation’s culture of giving, stemming from reasons as varied as religious obligation, a sense of humility, a desire to avoid future solicitations, limiting family strife, and countless others.

Over the next few weeks of the Christmas season residents of Michigan and around the nation can expect to hear news reports of anonymous donors dropping gold Krugerrands into the iconic red kettles of the Salvation Army, as has happened every year at this time for decades.

Unfortunately not everyone respects the longstanding norm of privacy for nonprofit givers, in particular politicians and activists seeking to target those who disagree with them.

Read more via detroitnews.com: Opinion: Protect Michigan nonprofit donors’ privacy