Donor Privacy

The First Amendment provides broad protection of free speech and free association, and includes an individual's right to associate, even anonymously, with charitable causes.

The right to give – even anonymous gifts – to charitable causes and organizations is a well-established right in the United States. Since the Supreme Court decided the famous Alabama v. NAACP case in 1958, courts have recognized a First Amendment right of Americans to associate — and donate — to organizations anonymously.

That right has come under attack recently, as Cancel Culture tries to cut off funding for opponents to their agenda. From CEOs to blue-collar workers, we have seen more than a few examples of people having their lives turned upside down because they supported a cause they believed in — and their name was made public.

The First Amendment provides broad protection of free speech and free association, and includes an individual’s right to associate, even anonymously, with organizations. The 1958 Supreme Court case NAACP v. Alabama confirmed that this right is paramount, and establishes that government may not demand to see member lists.

Imagine if pro-life donors were required to have their names given over to the government of California? Or imagine if donors to pro-Second Amendment organizations were forced to provide their names and donation history to the state of New York, a state that has demonstrated hostility to the Second Amendment?

The First Amendment protects both the right to free speech (and financial contributions have long been recognized as a protected form of speech) and the right to associate freely with political, charitable, and religious organizations.

Key Resources

People United for Privacy

National Organizations

People United for Privacy believes every American has the right to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation.

Updates

Media Misleads the Public About the DISCLOSE Act’s Threat to Free Speech

The Senate’s recent vote on the DISCLOSE Act featured some of the worst reporting ever on the bill’s threat to First Amendment rights.

All About Nikki Haley’s Donors

Wall Street Journal

New York state, in an amicus brief joined by other Democratic states in the California case, claimed it “maintains a rigorous multistep procedure to prevent public disclosure” and its “confidentiality protections have proven successful.” The documented leak betrays this claim. If the details of Ms. Haley’s nonprofit donors aren’t safe, then no charity’s contributors are.

IRS Again Fails to Protect Taxpayer Data

In a pre-Labor Day news dump, the IRS admitted to publishing 120,000 taxpayer forms in a public database. Names, contact information and financial information were all available for search and download on the IRS website. The Wall Street Journal reported it was able to find at least some of the information before government staff pulled it down. Bloomberg reports that the IRS knew the information was there since August 26, but there was no indication how long the information was available to the public.

Wyoming Legislators Warming Up To Campaign Finance Bill, But Still On Fence

Cowboy State Daily  |  Wyoming

“The [Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions] committee is considering a bill that calls for a U.S. Constitutional amendment banning corporations from making independent campaign expenditures. The bill calls for improved transparency in corporate political donations. It would require an individual be tied to every corporate donation made. Legislators attempted to balance between the required transparency mandated under the bill and Constitutional rights while discussing this effort.”

What tea party? Former IRS official Lerner claimed ignorance in secret testimony about targeting

At one point Ms. Lerner labeled the tea party cases “very dangerous.” She speculated that if a case reached the Supreme Court it could result in the 2010 Citizens United ruling, which extended political speech protections to groups that filed as political committees with the Federal Election Commission, being extended to tax-exempt organizations too. … In one email to someone whose name is redacted from the deposition transcript Ms. Lerner, a former FEC employee, called Citizens United “by far the worst thing that has ever happened to this country.” She also said “We are witnessing the end of America” because of the influence of money.

Cindy Hyde-Smith Raises Concern About The Risk To First Amendment Rights Under The DISCLOSE Act

YouTube

“The DISCLOSE Act is the first ever legislation to require disclosure for grassroots lobbying efforts … a similar attempt to do this was tried in the 1970s and it generated a huge amount of opposition across the political spectrum. If people understood that today … a lot of groups would emerge and say ‘Look, we are in favor of disclosure for actual campaigning, for or against a candidate and [what] we are not in favor of here is [disclosure for nonprofit groups] advocating on important public issues.’ Whether on the left of the right, there are going to be causes that are minority viewpoints where people are simply not going to be willing to write a check or make a donation to support an unpopular cause… If this bill becomes law, over time … it will make it difficult for minority viewpoints to appeal to our fellow Americans….”

Donor Privacy — and Free Speech — Protected in Supreme Court Victory

The Supreme Court this morning struck down the California Attorney General’s demand that nonprofit advocacy groups turn over confidential information about their donors as the price of exercising the First Amendment freedom of speech.

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