CA, NY Democrat AGs Use Color of Law to Break Donor Privacy Law
The IRS targeted conservative groups for unlawful scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt status, and illegally disclosed tax information of conservative donors as a means to bully, intimidate and silence them.
What is also coming to light is how states broke laws to unlawfully snoop into and disclose confidential tax information, as Delaware officials did with Christine O'Donnell in her tea-party supported candidacy for U.S. Senate. 'Mysteriously,' those records have disappeared.
Now comes news that Democrat Attorneys General Kamala Harris of California and Eric Schneiderman of New York are using their positions as the "charitable officials" of their states to force nonprofit organizations to file the lists of their largest donors as an extortive and unconstitutional condition of getting licensed to ask for contributions.
Lois Lerner, the IRS official who invoked the Fifth Amendment in her refusal to testify before Congress, has collaborated closely with state charitable officials. As reported at The NonProfit Times
"Lerner explained that the IRS expected to have regular interaction with [the National Association of State Charitable Officials] about the new filing and monitor trends that arise with the new Form 990 and hoped the feedback would help shape future adjustments. The IRS and state regulators already have a compliance relationship - the IRS can give some information to state regulators about enforcement activities under the Pension Protection Act of 2006, while the state regulators can lead the IRS to potential tax violations."
Some conservative organizations are choosing not register in California and New York to protect the privacy of their donors, meaning that they may not send their fundraising communications into those states. Their First Amendment rights and fundraising efforts suffer.
Others have reported that California and New York assured them that their donor names were protected, even though the collection of such information is illegal.
Yeah. Trust us.
The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) of Vienna, Virginia issued the following statement regarding letter it sent advising three congressional committees of the illegal collection and disclosure of donor names and addresses by the state Attorneys General of California and New York:
"The California and New York Attorneys General are violating federal law and abusing their positions as their states' charitable officials by requiring nonprofit organizations to file and thereby disclose names and addresses of their large donors.
"These states are violating federal law to intimidate and silence critics of government, a tactic for which government has a long history as discussed in the landmark case of NAACP v. Alabama. We are seeing states violate federal tax confidentiality laws to harass, bully and discriminate against some speakers, and give favored status to other speakers in public debate.
"Congress is already investigating the unlawful and even felonious disclosure of confidential tax information, including the names of donors to nonprofit organizations, by the IRS and states, and we wanted them to know the full scope of the problem.
"The FSC letters explain that the California and New York Attorneys General are violating the Internal Revenue Code's clear delineations for when and how state officials may collect and disclose tax information. The California and New York Attorneys General violate donor confidentiality by demanding that nonprofit organizations file their large donor names with those state charitable officials in order to register to solicit contributions in those states. These demands are in violation of federal law, and are an unconstitutional and extortive condition placed on nonprofit organizations that solicit contributions, which is protected by the First Amendment. These tactics are clearly designed to scare and silence nonprofit organizations and their donors.
"IRS official Lois Lerner, who invoked the Fifth Amendment to not testify when she was called before Congress, has had a history of collaborating with state charitable officials. FSC calls on Congress to investigate and stop this illegal disclosure, and prevent its spread to other states," concluded Mr. Dingman.
The FSC letters dated July 23 were sent to the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Ways and Means, and can be viewed at www.freespeechcoalition.org.