First Amendment

These Nonprofit 'Disclosure' Requirements Are an Assault on the First Amendment

A California rule and a bill approved by the House seem designed to chill freedom of speech and freedom of association.

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says he wants to prevent charitable fraud, while the House Democrats who approved the "For the People Act" last week say they want to fortify democracy, fight corruption, and block foreign interference in U.S. elections. But the methods they have chosen pose a serious threat to freedom of speech and freedom of association.

Under a policy at the center of a First Amendment case the Supreme Court will hear this term, Becerra requires that all 115,000 nonprofit organizations operating in California report information about their major donors. That information is supposed to be confidential, but in practice it is not, because California has a history of accidentally posting it online and making it easily available to anyone with rudimentary hacking skills.

In a 1958 case involving Alabama's demand that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People disclose its membership lists, the Supreme Court recognized that such requirements can have a chilling effect on freedom of association, because they expose supporters of controversial groups to harassment and threats of violence. When the government compels disclosure of organizational information that may result in "reprisals against and hostility to the members," the Court has said, it must show that the policy is "substantially related" to a "compelling" government interest and "narrowly tailored" for that purpose.

Becerra's blanket demand for the names and addresses of nonprofit donors plainly fails that test, since he can always seek such information from an organization that is actually suspected of fraud. The challenge to his overreaching nosiness has attracted support from a broad coalition of civil liberties groups and nonprofits representing all sorts of causes and political preferences.

Unlike Becerra, the legislators who supported the For the People Act are not even pretending to keep the information required by the bill confidential. To the contrary, they aim to force public disclosure of donor information through a sweeping definition of "election-related" speech.

The 791-page bill, which passed the House by a party-line vote of 220 to 210, expands the definition of "electioneering communications" to include "any communication which is placed or promoted for a fee on an online platform" and mentions a federal officeholder or candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. It also expands the category of federally regulated "public communications" to cover any "paid internet or paid digital communication," which apparently would include organizational websites and staff-written social media posts.

So-called electioneering communications need not target a politician's constituents or advocate his election or defeat. They would nevertheless have to reveal the organization's top donors, whether or not they sponsored the message or approved of its content.

The bill also would require that nonprofits file publicly accessible reports of vaguely defined "campaign-related disbursements," including donor information, with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The reports would declare support of or opposition to particular candidates, even when the organizations have taken no such stand.

For example, says Institute for Free Speech Senior Fellow Eric Wang, "left-leaning organizations calling on President Biden to adopt a more left-leaning agenda could be required to affirmatively and publicly declare to the FEC that their ads 'oppose' Biden," even when that is not actually true. The bill also requires a "public file" of expenditures for online ads related to any "national legislative issue of public importance," which Wang warns may expose "organizers of contentious but important political causes like 'Black Lives Matter'" to "harassment by opponents or hostile government officials."

Such requirements are bound to make advocacy groups, especially small ones, think twice before speaking out on the issues that motivate them and discourage donors from supporting them. But that seems to be the point.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) thinks "it's good to have a deterrent effect" when "somebody is trying to influence government for their purposes." Call that policy what you like, but it assuredly is not "for the people."

© Copyright 2021 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. “it’s good to have a deterrent effect” when “somebody is trying to influence government for their purposes.”

    How dare people use the 1A to petition the government for redress of grievances.

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    2. Let us keep this all in perspective. Trump led an all out assault on American democracy by criticizing the free press and encouraging a violent, armed mob to murder a Capitol police officer with a fire extinguisher. Forcing bigots who support “traditional” marriage or opposed gender confirmation surgery for Kindergarten age children are the real monsters in our society and the shining light of justice (i.e. this proposed legislation) is the best solution to bigotry and hate.

      1. I think Trump starting WW3 twice with Iran and North Korea, played a part too.

        1. Not to put too fine a point on it, but wouldn’t that be technically WW3 and WW4? 2 world wars in a single 4 year term. Impressive!

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          2. The Orange Man was so Bad that he couldn’t even count the world wars he started, properly. World War 3 and World War 3 Version 2, my goodness.

        2. Don’t forget the interplanetary war he started with the Sontarans. That went pretty badly.

          1. To be fair, sending the Daleks to take them out was a stroke of genius.

      2. *WK vigorously jots down notes*

      3. There is no evidence that the officer who died was struck with a fire extinguisher (or anything else).

        What we know about Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick’s death

        1. Pssst… batteries dead in your sarcasm detector.

          1. He bites on OBL’s schtick sometimes too.

      4. It would be great if our press was actually “free” and independent. Instead, it is largely owned and controlled by left-leaning Democrats and primarily acts as a propaganda ministry for them.

    3. Once again, Fuck Schumer is a worthless shitgargler. Maybe one of his rentboys will feed him some bad cocaine.

  2. I agree this is unconstitutional. But still, better to donate your time to your favorite charity instead of your money. By volunteering, you can learn what they actually do and thus if you really support them. And you’ll have more money so you can take time off to advocate your policies on social media where it really matters.

    For example, the “Barstool Fund” helps small businesses impacted by COVID. It raised $30 million. That sounds great, until you consider that it would have been better to keep the money and instead take time off work to fight COVID restrictions on social media such as on Twitter and Facebook (in enemy terrain not just here in your safe space echo chamber). If people had done this a year ago, schools and businesses would already be back open. The war today isn’t in the election booth or at the capitol building, but online.

    1. Man these spambots are getting really longwinded.

  3. I mean who could have seen this coming from democrats! Not like they’ve done it in California and tried in other places. I am as shocked by this turn of events as Reasons highly learned and educated editors are.

  4. Why is the information “supposed to be private” as you so claim? The decision to keep that information private is more likely left up to the organization. Is it a good idea to require disclosure? Maybe not but I’m not seeing the constitutional violation here.

    1. Learn some history. Start with the NAACP in the 60s. Then we can have a conversation.

      1. I’m in favor of amending and strengthening the 4th Amendment consequences be dammed. If you’re in favor of that then great but it sets you apart from the typical anti4th Amendment Republican.

        1. Retard doesn’t even know which amendment is which.

        2. I’m in favor of you fucking off until you get out of the sixth grade some time in the next ten years.

    2. “Why is the any information ‘supposed to be private’ as you so claim?”

      Fixed it.

      That is the real question you wanted to ask, isn’t it?

      Activate the panopticon!

      1. Just like every dollar you make is really the government letting you keep their money, any information you have is the government’s that they decide what you can keep private.

      2. My money my choice its non of anyones business what i do with it

    3. The Dems want all donors to advocacy groups to be exposed so they can turn the full power of their government/big tech/academia/media death star on the dissenters. If dissenters can remain safely anonymous, how can they be canceled and fired? Their tax returns audited and business records subpoenaed by state attorneys general? Have their web sites dumped by their providers and their content removed from YouTube, their links rejected by Facebook, and their books yanked by Amazon? Donor doxxing is key to complete domination.

    4. You should really read these articles you comment on. Then, you won’t ask questions that have already been answered and make yourself look even more the fool.

  5. Too bad Sullum didn’t report on this before the House approved it, instead of publishing a dozen articles advocating that Trump be retroactively impeached.

    1. Dozens* not a dozen.

      1. At least they didn’t tweet it meanly.

    2. If only there was some way we could have known about this…

    3. He has moved on. His assigned narrative now is ensuring that Trump gets no credit for the vaccines or ending the plandemic.

  6. “Such requirements are bound to make advocacy groups, especially small ones, think twice before speaking out on the issues that motivate them and discourage donors from supporting them. But that seems to be the point.”

    Democrats need to know where to direct the mobs and rioters.

    1. It isnt like they got Mozilla to fire their CEO over a 500 dollar donation.

      1. But they will also pass a concurrent law making the unauthorized disclosure of any Democrat official’s address or place of residence a felony punishable by ten years imprisonment; and punishable by death if you actually show up.

        If Democrats are going to legalize the dispatching of brown shirts to silence their political adversaries, they cannot afford to have them showing up at their homes. See The Curious Case of Jenny “The Summer of Love” Durkan.

      2. … supporting a ballot proposition that passed readily.
        … years earlier.

  7. “the Supreme Court recognized that such requirements can have a chilling effect on freedom of association, because they expose supporters of controversial groups to harassment and threats of violence.”

    Notice SCOTUS did not even mention that forcing people to disclose their associations was a violation of freedom of association in and of itself !
    Forget the rest !

    1. Uhm… That’s because it’s not. The relevant text of the First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble…” Disclosure laws do not, in and of themselves, violate that text.

      Disclosure laws are unconstitutional because, as the Supreme Court has said, they create fear of retaliation and make people more likely to self-censor and to “voluntarily” refrain from exercising their rights even when the law does not directly abridge the right.

  8. While I am willing to allow charities some leeway with regard to reporting donors, I am not willing to allow the same for political donations. If you donate to a candidate or to groups running political ads then you should be reporting that information to the public. The public should know who is behind a candidate. I also question why anyone should be afraid to show their support for a candidate. Or why a candidate would want to hide who is really supporting their candidacy.

    It is said that money is a form of political speech, I accept that only if the money is transparent.

    1. Lol. Yes. We never see any type of harassment based on support. God damn authoritarian.

      1. For example, no lawyer for Donald Trump ever had death threats against themselves or family.

    2. We should make voting records public, too. It’s important to know who voted for whom. Why should anyone be afraid to have their voting record made public? If you have nothing to hide, then you should be willing to have all your political information made public.

    3. “I also question why anyone should be afraid to show their support for a candidate.”

      Are you retarded?

      1. So you would not put out a yard sign for a candidate? Or a bumper sticker? I see plenty of people willing to do this.

        1. Are you retarded?

          1. You know over the course of my life I have met numerous individuals who are mentally challenged. I have found them to be simple and good people.

            You should think about the language you use, argue your point and don’t call people names. Especially names that are really no longer appropriate.

            1. Yes would have been the concise response.

              1. LMAO

                These fucking lefties are walking parodies

            2. Your dull credulousness inspired his response.

          2. Dude, uncool. The genuinely mentally handicapped don’t deserve to be compared to these guys. That’s just cruel.

        2. Plenty of people, sure. But not all people. It’s a personal choice whether you want to make your preferences public, and it should remain so.

    4. Are you going to outlaw all anonymous speech, too?

      I have to say that your comments here make your username seem remarkably poorly chosen. There is nothing moderate about your apparent desire to support and empower demagogues.

      1. No I would not outlaw anonymous speech. But I respect the opinion more from a speaker willing to provide their names.

        Let me ask you this, when you read a newspaper articles, which do you believe more a statement from an unnamed source or one from a named source.

        1. re: “I respect the opinion more from a speaker willing to provide their names.”

          As you should. Just like you should generally trust a politician who discloses his/her donors over one who doesn’t. But it’s a far cry from making personal evaluations of trust to compelling the behaviors of others.

          There have been plenty of times in our history when the “right” candidate (think of the people who opposed Joe McCarthy, those who wanted to overturn the anti-miscegenation laws or the suffragettes, for example) needed financial support yet their supporters had entirely justifiable fears about being attacked and abused.

          1. McCarthy gets quite the unfair rap historically.

            He had nothing to do with HUAC, in spite of idiots claiming he did.

            He actually had names, plenty of them, of Communists in the State Dept. This was not a big secret.

            He tried to avoid naming names in public session because he was aware some might be innocent. Democrats refused to allow closed session investigations.

            Unlike our current moral betters in the press and left, he sought to minimize damage and actually got many names correct.

        2. Above, you questioned “why anyone should be afraid to show their support for a candidate”. I can’t speak for everyone but in my own case, my local community is heavily skewed to one political party and my preferred candidate was in the other. I supported my preferred candidate because I honestly believed he would do the better job. (Or more accurately, be less bad.) But there was no yard sign on my property because I didn’t want to deal with the small-minded abuse and vandalism of my neighbors.

          Was that cowardly of me? Maybe. But I do not think we should be saying that free speech is only allowed for the brave.

          1. First, everyone has a right to secretly vote for the candidate of their choice. Similarly there are time when it is not advisable or proper to discuss politics. Think the Thanksgiving Dinner or the breakroom at work.

            But there is a difference between you personally voting for a candidate and you giving money to influence the vote of others. I understand and I am saddened by the division in this country. It would be wrong to boycott a company simply because it gives money to a candidate you don’t support. I would also like to know who is supporting a candidate as it helps me in forming my opinion of the candidate. Finally I am concerned when donors seem to have nothing to do with the race give big money. Examples are individuals and companies that give big to senatorial races yet have no apparent connection with the state.

            That is why you can vote for who you want secretly, but if your giving money I feel it important to know.

            1. You are entirely missing what I said. In particular, I said nothing about secret voting.

              You personally see value in knowing about my donations to political candidates. I understand and agree. What you are not seeing is the value I might place on you (and others) not seeing my donations. Not all uses of that information are good, right or even legal. Sometimes, the best way to prevent the abuse of that information is to prevent the disclosure in the first place. And often, the social value of preventing that abuse outweighs the marginal value of knowing that information.

              Nobody has to stand up to defend free speech that’s popular. The time to defend it is when it’s unpopular. And that’s the same time that information about the speech is most likely to be abused. Stop making it easier for demagogues. Think about the rights and protections that you will want when you are the one in the unpopular minority.

              1. One of your many problems is your near constant employment of false equivalencies.

                1. That was meant for Mod.

            2. “…But there is a difference between you personally voting for a candidate and you giving money to influence the vote of others…”

              No, there isn’t.

        3. “Let me ask you this, when you read a newspaper articles, which do you believe more a statement from an unnamed source or one from a named source.”

          …didn’t seem to bug you from 2017-Jan. 20 2021

    5. So now do facial-recognition cameras on every corner.
      Or explain why a person advocating transparency comments anonymously.
      Before I left California, a lot of the political ads had more to do with who supported the other side and less about the actual merits of the propositions. That has a bad effect on the political dialog and it also makes those donors less likely to express their support. Making the disclosures broader is an obvious attempt to discourage conservative fundraising just as the 6x matching funds is meant to improve progressive fundraising.

    6. You’re really itching to do some good ole doxxing like the rest of the left, aren’t you?

    7. “While I am willing to allow charities some leeway with regard to reporting donors, I am not willing to allow the same for political donations…”

      Which is but one of the reasons you are widely recognized to be a lefty ignoramus.

  9. “the Supreme Court recognized that such requirements can have a chilling effect on freedom of association, because they expose supporters of controversial groups to harassment and threats of violence.”

    Feature, not a bug.

    1. It’s just another tool for today’s Democrats, who are now defined by their opposition to free speech. More ways for them to destroy people at will that they disagree with, like they did with Mozilla’s CEO back in 2012:

      https://www.reason.com/2014/04/06/does-mozilla-dumping-its-ceo-over-prop-8/%3famp

  10. Democrats love to claim that Republican claims of vote fraud are pretext unsupported by evidence while blissfully ignoring the fact that foreign interference US elections is even more rare and less successful. The hypocrisy is astonishing.

    1. I *wish* it was astonishing, and not just… expected. :-\

      1. That’s the thing about the Dems and voter fraud. Not only do they want to make it easier to commit, they also want to make it more difficult, if not impossible, to detect and prove.

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  12. Last paragraph:
    “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) thinks “it’s good to have a deterrent effect” when “somebody is trying to influence government for their purposes.” Call that policy what you like, but it assuredly is not “for the people.””

    Does “somebody…trying to influence government for their purposes.” include lobbyists for large campaign donors?

    Just askin’.

    1. I’m sick and tired of voters directly influencing government for their own purpose. Good to see laws being made to curtail that influence.

    2. It had better.

      Why do I suspect it doesn’t?

  13. I’m curious now as to how the law is written to ensure the DNCs traditional funding groups don’t have to disclose. Maybe they just aren’t worried about people needing to self-censor.

  14. Well at least Trump is not in office, right sully?

    1. No mean tweets for a couple of months, just steaming piles of shit from congress.
      Muy betta!

  15. The Dems have a tenuous grasp on the federal government, and there is reason to think that they may lose Congress in 2022. That they’d suddenly see problems with free speech is hardly surprising.

    1. The issue is the GOP once in control is the “jack kemp” model of ruling…trying to be the libs best friend..cutting taxes but never ever spending and rolling over for any neolib or neocon’s wars. Paul Ryan was a classic example…how about shutting down every federal agency created after 1960..a good start. Bringing the troops back and leaving the middle east for good..and finally not running deficits and shutting down the Fed…trading NYC for the Falkland Islands would also be a great deal..

      1. Not a bad idea. I like penguins.

  16. The real benefit of this to the Democrats is that they can use the information to launch public campaigns to either boycott the donor’s businesses or shame his or her employer into letting them go.
    Yes, it should be shot down by SCOTUS.

  17. Untraceable money is a problem.

    The fact that charities are tax exempt is all they deserve.

    That being said, people have a right to privacy, from the general public.

    If the government was held accountable for leaked private information, they would need to reinforce privacy rights.

    That would be a good thing.

  18. …because California has a history of accidentally posting it online and making it easily available to anyone with rudimentary hacking skills.

    If it requires actual “hacking skills” then it isn’t “easily available.” The hyperbole isn’t necessary and it undermines your point.

    It seems to me that California could opt to tighten or eliminate its charitable tax exemption laws. If it can do that, it can set any reasonable standard for obtaining the tax exemption, including a requirement for confidential donor reporting for the purpose of auditing and preventing abuse. Otherwise, these sorts of organizations just turn into money laundering outfits.

    Recent discoveries of white nationalist groups creating non-profits for the purpose of raising funds to equip and transport their members to DC for the insurrection will probably focus more attention on how lax government oversight has been. Not only was it insurrection, but it was a “tax-free” insurrection.

    1. You mean a riot? And comparing whatever limited funding of this to the real insurrection/ riots based on well…a narrative that facts didn’t support. The threat are cultural marxists which control the media, academia, and now govt…you need to see the real threat…and it isn’t those yahoos on the Capital but the rise of a authoritarian state wrapping itself in so called social justice…

      1. shawn is another sock from the Jeff/DoL brigade.

    2. You mean the way BLM and did that all of last year over the entire country?

      Also, your party is the poster child for why people need privacy protections. Look at al, the death threats and violence against anyone who doesn’t follow your Marxist narrative. Last year alone there were multiple violent events at the homes of conservatives who spoke out against the democrat narrative. Not to mention all the death threats against anyone challenging the election results, including any attorney representing Trump.

  19. “For the people” Chuck? That means if you only support socialist crony elites like Chuck. This smacks of the bolshevikism. This must be very comfortable for socialist Chuck…

  20. Democrats will give the donor info to their rent a mobs.

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  22. Hasn’t it been demonstrated over and over that we need to fight for every good thing we have, against the corrupt, the entitled oligarchs who must maintain their coercive power by censoring us?

    No good comes from abdicating our rights which only weakens our legal position. Morally, we can’t discard our rights at all.

    Doing so isn’t insurrection because those who violate our rights have no real claim to authority over us. Fighting them is what we must always do.

  23. The current Administration is an assault on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, plus an assault on the economy. They are building a dictatorship. Remember Reason, you called Biden a moderate that rejected the far left’s agenda. Yeah Trump was evil. Buyers remorse yet? If not, it is coming.

    1. Remorse?

      It is exactly what they wanted. They do not want liberty, all they want is permission. And they especially do not want you to have liberty.

      Leftitarians pretending to be otherwise.

  24. Own it, Sullum: You did your part to see to it that this would happen.

  25. “…because California has a history of accidentally posting it online and making it easily available to anyone with rudimentary hacking skills.”

    “Accidentally” my ass. Getting this information out in the public domain is the primary purpose of this provision. That both the Harris and Beccera AG’s office released this information was not “accidental.” Stop uncritically giving in to leftist assertions.

  26. Revealing donors gets to open up prospective sources of revenue. Then they can be investigated for their any operations or means, and new taxation schemes can be concocted.

    The dangerous precedent of the income tax transferred the federal role from collecting taxes from state treasuries directly to its form where people pay federal tax based on their financial metric identity.

    Fairness in taxation means you get something functional in return. The taxation was supposed to be on income, defined at the time like, money making money, rather than your own hard labor making money. Does there look to be a health crisis by taxing labor? Your health being your vote, suffering persons tend to make poorer voting decisions.

    Delving the knives of the state into the philanthropist turkey, ’nuff said. Desperation follows the path of available opportunity. And bad ideas realize their consequences over time.

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