Wall Street Journal op-ed: A California Assault on Free Speech That Would Shock the Founders, by Tim Phillips (Americans for Prosperity) & David Spady (Americans for Prosperity):
In the past four years, the Democratic Party and the progressive movement have been dealt devastating losses at the ballot box, in large part because voters rejected their policies as violations of fundamental liberties.
Yet rather than debate the merits of their policies, many on the left responded with a coordinated campaign to suppress free speech—primarily by intimidating, demonizing and silencing the people who opposed and defeated them. Examples include the Internal Revenue Services’ targeting of conservative nonprofit groups, Senate Democrats’ recent attempt to write a new constitutional amendment that would gut the First Amendment, and a host of other anti-free-speech efforts at both the state and federal level.
Our organizations, Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit advocacy group that mobilizes grass-roots activists to support or oppose specific legislation and hold lawmakers accountable, and Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which educates citizens about the benefits of free-market policies, have been among the left’s primary targets.
President Obama has personally leveled attacks on our nonprofits on numerous occasions, as has Majority Leader Harry Reid in speeches from the Senate floor. Their allies, whether in Congress, in the federal bureaucracy or affiliated groups, have gone to great lengths to discredit and destroy us.
On Dec. 9 the AFP Foundation filed suit in federal court to stop the latest such attack—California Attorney General Kamala Harris ’s demand that we disclose our donors, including their names, addresses and contribution levels. Ms. Harris has indicated that the penalty for noncompliance will be financial penalties for our individual officers and directors as well as a denial of nonprofit status, essentially ending our work in the state of California.
Ms. Harris claims she will not disclose this information to the public. But this is a hollow promise. There is no provision of California law that ensures confidentiality. Indeed, California law appears to be to the contrary, requiring her to disclose information in her possession upon request from the public. The likely outcome is that her allies on the left will use the information to target and ultimately suppress our organization and those who support it.
Ms. Harris’s demand derives no support from existing statutes or regulations. Neither state nor federal law requires nonprofits like the AFP Foundation to disclose the information she has requested. The organization has operated in California for more than 13 years, a period in which our donor and member information was never required or otherwise requested by state officials. We have fully complied with the laws and regulations that govern nonprofits. Nothing has changed, except perhaps the politicization of the office which Ms. Harris now holds. ...
The left has mounted a campaign against right-of-center organizations like ours for years. This trend began in the 2010 midterm election cycle when the left—facing a looming defeat at the ballot box—began characterizing nonprofits like ours as “dark” and “shadowy,” simply because our donors are anonymous. The IRS also began surreptitiously targeting many right-leaning groups that wished to use their First Amendment freedoms to speak about political issues. ...
These attacks escalated in the 2012 election cycle. Among other things, the IRS began auditing people who donated to groups opposing President Obama’s re-election. Such actions certainly benefited the president and his party, which emerged victorious on Election Day.