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Top Conservatives Demand Hearings on IRS Privacy Allegations

Image: Top Conservatives Demand Hearings on IRS Privacy Allegations
 

By    |   Wednesday, 25 May 2016 07:38 PM

As if the IRS isn’t facing enough scrutiny, a dream team of conservative leaders is calling for congressional hearings into whether the IRS and the Obama administration allowed two state attorneys general to target non-profit organizations by requiring disclosure of their donor lists in return for permission to solicit donations in their respective states.

They charge coercing donors lists are a violation of First Amendment liberties, and violate strict federal statutes that protect the confidentiality of certain portions of nonprofit organizations’ tax filings.

A who’s who list of 104 top conservatives signed the letter, which is dated May 19 and addressed to House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz.

The letter alleges "serious violations and evasions of the Internal Revenue Code" by California Attorney General Kamala Harris and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The all-star cast of leading conservatives who signed the letter includes Morton C. Blackwell, chairman of the Weyrich Lunch group that initiated the letter, conservative superlawyer Cleta Mitchell, Eagle Forum founder and CEO Phyllis Schlafly, ConservativeHQ.com chairman Richard A. Viguerie, Media Research Center Founder and President L. Brent Bozell III, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Attorney James Bopp Jr. of the James Madison Center for Free Speech, Gary Bauer of American Values, Tea Party Patriots co-founder and president Jenny Beth Martin, Citizens United President David N. Bossie, and many others.

A "memorandum of cause for hearings" that accompanies the letter accuses Harris and Schneiderman of "coercing nonprofit organizations" to submit the names and addresses of donors reported to the IRS for tax purposes. By federal law, the IRS can only provide donor information to other government agencies under strictly limited circumstances intended to ensure non-disclosure.

But the controversial policies adopted by Harris and Schneiderman would circumvent federal restrictions by requiring nonprofits to disclose donors lists directly to state authorities, in return for renewal of the registration status needed to raise donations in the two states.

"Their acts not only appear to be lawless, but actually demonstrate contempt for the rule of law over government officials," states the memorandum.

The letter also blasts the two attorneys general as "known partisans with track records of targeting the speech of those with whom they disagree."

Schneiderman and Harris contend that donor information will help their offices determine if any illegal activity is occurring in relation to the donations, and will keep donors from being fleeced by "sham charities."

In June 2013, Schneiderman adopted regulations in New York requiring nonprofits to file annual reports on their political spending, and to identify both donors and expenditures related to New York elections.

A news release from his office called the new policy "part of a groundbreaking effort to bring transparency to the political process and protect donors to nonprofits."

Ever since California’s Proposition 8 battle in November 2008, progressive organizations have sought to expose donors to conservative causes, apparently as a way to degrade the effectiveness of conservative activists.

In April, U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real slapped Harris’s office with a permanent injunction, preventing it from requiring the Americans for Prosperity Foundation to hand over the donor information listed on its confidential tax filings. Some aspects of Real’s opinion appeared to offer a scathing rebuke of Harris’s new requirement of donor lists that first surfaced in 2013.

After citing example after example of serious threats against people associated with AFP, the judge declared in his opinion "This Court is not prepared to wait until an AFP opponent carries out one of the numerous death threats made against its members."

The judge defended his permanent injunction by ruling, "AFP has suffered irreparable harm. The Attorney General’s requirement that AFP submit its Schedule B chills the exercise of its donor’s First Amendment freedoms to speak anonymously and to engage in expressive association."

Harris’s office promised during that trial, which only applies to AFP and not to other organizations, that any information it obtained would remain confidential, and would not be leaked to the public. But AFP simply checked the attorney general’s online website and found a staggering 1,778 donor lists that had been posted to the site for anyone to review.

"As made abundantly clear during trial," Judge Real wrote, "the Attorney General has systematically failed to maintain the confidentiality of [IRS donor lists]."

Adding to the political overtones of that ruling is the fact that Harris is running to represent California in the U.S. Senate. The primary election in that race will be held June 7.

The IRS has been in the headlines this week as House Republicans consider the possible impeachment of IRS chief John Koskinen, whom they say provided false and misleading testimony to Congress stemming from the Lois Lerner IRS targeting case.

The agency could find the heat turned up even higher, should Chaffetz agree to launch an additional probe into whether the IRS was "derelict or complicit" in not preventing state attorneys general from coercing nonprofit organizations into turning over portions of federal tax returns that, by law, are supposed to be kept confidential within the IRS.

The letter states "the IRS could and should have acted to prohibit the unauthorized actions by the two state attorneys general, and has failed to police their use of [donor] information."

The correspondence defends the right to collect donations as a First Amendment freedom, and states the burdensome requirement to submit donor lists to state officials creates "an unconstitutional condition placed on the exercise of First Amendment rights."

Mark Fitzgibbons, president of corporate affairs for American Target Advertising, a signatory of the letter to Chaffetz, told Newsmax on Wednesday via email that the request by conservatives for a hearing "raises very serious issues that have not previously been brought to the attention of Congress, such as the potential civil and criminal violations of the tax code by Generals Kamala Harris and Eric Schneiderman.

"Since those issues are only now being raised, the dereliction of the IRS in its failure to act has not yet been explored by Congress," he stated, adding: "This does, however, seem to create a whole new chapter to the problems of trust and competency at the IRS, but [is] consistent with its past bad behavior."

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As if the IRS isn't facing enough scrutiny, a dream team of conservative leaders is calling for congressional hearings into whether the IRS and the Obama administration allowed two state attorneys general to target non-profit organizations by requiring disclosure of their...
conservative, donor lists, kamala harris, eric schneiderman, irs, privacy
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2016-38-25
Wednesday, 25 May 2016 07:38 PM
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