Campaign for Liberty, the nonprofit organization that was established by Ron Paul, is refusing to surrender to the demands of the Internal Revenue Service to hand over its list of donors.
In a C4L blog post, Tim Shoemaker wrote that the IRS has imposed large fines- over $12,000 to date plus multiple penalties accumulating daily- for its refusal to release their donor list. C4L believes this list should remain private, as anonymous political speech deserves protection under the First Amendment.
“There is no reason for the IRS to have any of that information,” C4L Communications Director Megan Stiles told Benswann.com. In a phone interview, Stiles said that while 501(c)4 nonprofits are “technically” supposed to disclose this information, she said that this is generally never imposed.
Stiles explained that the IRS has requested this information in the past and C4L has regularly responded by referring to NAACP v. Alabama, where the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the State of Alabama to require the NAACP to release its Alabama member list to the state. She said that the previous court rulings should be sufficient evidence to continue protecting the privacy of contributors.
For the tax year of 2012, that answer was no longer satisfactory for the IRS; they want not only to collect the fines but the donor list as well.
It is unclear whether or not such demands for donor names and addresses are actually enforceable. Judge Andrew Napolitano appeared at the Varney and Co. program on Fox Business Wednesday to clarify which types of information the IRS is entitled to receive from nonprofits. Napolitano said that the IRS is authorized to monitor how donation money is spent, to assure that the nonprofits are operating accordingly to maintain their tax-exempt status. However, he said the IRS is not authorized to monitor who is contributing money to nonprofits.
Napolitano noted that there’s a difference between the government compelling nonprofits to release donor information and other entities releasing it. When it was discovered that former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich had donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8 in California, that piece of information was released by the California secretary of state’s office and not the IRS.
C4L plans to challenge the IRS and is refusing to pay the fines. Ron Paul wrote in a letter to its members that succumbing to the IRS and giving up donor information “would have an incredibly chilling effect on political speech.” In light of revelations that the IRS had been actively targeting conservative and liberal groups last year, Paul’s concern is far from unfounded. Campaign For Liberty replied to the IRS with the same court case references and requested a response from them by May 1st, 2014.
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