Support for the ACE Act’s Critical Free Speech and Privacy Protections

On Thursday, September 15, 2022, People United for Privacy sent a coalition letter signed by nearly 70 organizations to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in support of the free speech provisions in the “American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act” (H.R. 8528), introduced by Congressman Rodney Davis. The text of the letter follows, and you can download a PDF of the letter and a list of signers here.

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader McCarthy,

The undersigned nonprofit organizations and policy leaders write in strong support of the free speech and citizen privacy provisions in the “American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act” (H.R. 8528), introduced by Congressman Rodney Davis. This thoughtful legislation protects and strengthens important First Amendment rights that Americans have enjoyed since the founding of our country. This is a critical counterbalance to the growing push for unconstitutional and harmful disclosures in Congress and at the state level that attack the rights to freely speak, publish, and support groups that advocate for causes supported by Americans across the country and ideological spectrum.

The free speech provisions in the ACE Act would defend the vital role nonprofit organizations serve in encouraging free speech and the free exchange of ideas. Privately supporting causes – and the organizations advancing those causes – is a fundamental freedom protected by the First Amendment.

Our Founding Fathers used pen names to encourage independence from Great Britain. Nearly 200 years later, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the state of Alabama from demanding the supporter list of the NAACP, citing concerns about retribution against the group’s members and financial backers. And just last year, the Supreme Court ruled in Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) v. Bonta that nonprofit causes cannot be forced to hand over their supporter lists to the government. The privacy rights at stake in that case were robustly supported by over 280 nonprofit groups representing a wide range of causes and political preferences.

The ACE Act would enshrine four vital privacy protections into law through the following provisions:

  • Speech Privacy Act of 2022. Codifies the Supreme Court decisions in NAACP v. Alabama and AFPF v. Bonta by prohibiting federal agencies from collecting or disclosing the names of nonprofit supporters. Agencies that are required by law to collect this information are exempted, and penalties for government officials that illegally reveal this sensitive information are included. (Sec. 307)
  • Don’t Weaponize the IRS Act. Enshrines into law 2020 reforms issued by rulemaking that prevent the Internal Revenue Service from collecting and warehousing nonprofit donor information that the agency has acknowledged it does not use or need. (Sec. 308)
  • IRS Protections. Prevents the IRS from writing new regulations to limit political speech by nonprofits. (Sec. 309)
  • SEC Protections. Prohibits the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring businesses to disclose their giving to nonprofits and membership in trade associations. (Sec. 341)

We urge all Members of Congress to support the strong free speech and citizen privacy provisions in Congressman Rodney Davis’ “American Confidence in Elections Act.” These reforms will protect millions of Americans across the country, who cherish and rely on the right to privately support causes they believe in without fear of harassment and intimidation, as well as the diverse causes they support, including the undersigned individuals and organizations.

Download the letter and list of signers here.