We must protect our right to come together in support of charities and causes we believe in.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
“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
David French, National Review senior writer, explains why it’s important to preserve a culture of support for free speech in the United States. (via Carolina Journal)