ICYMI: Important Donor Privacy Hearing

A couple weeks ago the IRS held a hearing on the “Reporting Requirements of Exempt Organizations.”  This hearing is especially timely in light of the rise of the violent Bernie Bros which was an issue in last night’s Democrat debate.  Retribution against supporters of issue groups on the opposite side of the spectrum is on the rise.  As Allen Dickerson of the Institute for Free Speech wrote in their official comments:

A 2017 poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that “more than half of Americans say the political polarization of the nation is extremely or very threatening, and another 34 percent say it is moderately threatening” to the American way of life.

Part of that threat comes from how a polarized polity encourages partisans to target and vilify perceived partisan or ideological opponents. As noted in a recent opinion by Judge Brian R. Martinotti of United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, there is now a climate where “the so-called cancel or call-out culture that has resulted in people losing employment, being ejected or driven out of restaurants while eating their meals; and where the Internet removes any geographic barriers to cyber harassment of others.”

Thus, merely by collecting donor information and risking its accidental or nefarious disclosure, the Service will impose a potential chill on giving to tax-exempt organizations.

The left is dismissing the need.  However, the Freedom Foundation’s Ashley Varner laid out some real world examples of what happens to supporters to a cause that is not popular with the far left. 

I explained how union groups routinely picket Board members’ businesses, disrupting the day and attempting to shame and discourage their involvement with our important mission. Websites smear our Board members and their businesses and ask readers to send “tips” about them. . . .

Here are just a few other examples;

A bogus ‘survey’ from the government front-group, Northwest Accountability Project, was sent to a Board member’s customers, asking leading and misleading questions designed to cause doubt and remorse in the previous business relationship and to harm future business prospects.

An ominous letter from Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders to Wells Fargo’s CEO threatening the bank because one of its vice presidents sits on the board of a foundation that supports Freedom Foundation.

Extra security precautions at our offices because unhinged activists sneak into our facilities. Employees have been swarmed by angry strangers in parking lots, followed to their cars and had pictures taken of their license plates.

The risk of donor disclosure of exempt issue organizations is real.  With the rise of the violent wing of the Bernie Bros and other similar intimidation groups, unintentional donor disclosure is a timely issue.