Protecting the Private Information of American Citizens from the IRS
‘The Senate will soon vote on an attempt by some of our Democratic colleagues to unwind an important privacy reform the Treasury Department enacted earlier this year. We need to stand up for privacy, stand up for the First Amendment, and reject the Democrats’ resolution… So get ready to hear a lot of lofty rhetoric about ‘restoring democracy’ from the Democratic Leader in the House and her allies here in the Senate. But underneath that rhetoric, get ready for legislation that would do more to un
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate regarding an attempt by Senate Democrats to undo an important Treasury Department privacy reform:
“The Senate will soon vote on an attempt by some of our Democratic colleagues to unwind an important privacy reform the Treasury Department enacted earlier this year. We need to stand up for privacy, stand up for the First Amendment, and reject the Democrats’ resolution. The question at hand is whether the IRS should have special power to demand that certain nonprofit organizations hand over lists of their contributors. This raises the question: Why? Why should the IRS have this private information?
“For accounting purposes? No. The regulation requires tax-exempt nonprofits to maintain books, but individuals’ donations are not tax-deductible, so there aren’t accounting reasons why the IRS would need to track donors. For transparency purposes? No. The personal information in question is not part of any public inspection requirement. In fact, the IRS is required to redact this information when releasing a nonprofit’s public tax filings. The guidance does nothing to affect the information that is publicly available. So why does the IRS need to stockpile this information? For safekeeping? Hardly.
“Several years ago, the IRS had to settle a lawsuit. A worker broke the law and leaked an unredacted copy of a group’s confidential forms. Of course that information ended up with a left-wing organization on the opposite side of the issue. A few years before that, California – which had begun demanding its own copy of this private information – ‘accidentally’ published the private information of donors to over 1,000 nonprofits registered with the state.
“These aren’t isolated incidents. They are part of a disturbingly hostile climate for certain kinds of political expression and for the free exchange of ideas. We’ve seen angry activist mobs deal out personal harassment and professional sabotage to individuals with whom they have a disagreement. We’ve seen the last administration’s IRS focus hostile treatment on certain organizations whose political views ran afoul of the bureaucrats’ own opinions. So this is the backdrop, which makes Secretary Mnuchin’s pro-privacy decision so important. The Democrats want to overrule Secretary Mnuchin’s guidance. They want to the IRS to resume packing filing cabinets full of the names of Americans who support different causes – even though they can’t say why.
“That’s today. What about tomorrow? Forty-five Senate Democrats are already signed on to a more sweeping piece of legislation, known as the DISCLOSE Act, which would amplify and expand this chilling effect in numerous other ways. For one thing, this bill would cut out the middleman of the leaky IRS and enable direct ideological harassment increasing disclosure of this private information straight to the public. That’s just one example. It would also give the FEC more power to regulate Americans’ speech about important issues and many public officials.
“So get ready to hear a lot of lofty rhetoric about ‘restoring democracy’ from the Democratic Leader in the House and her allies here in the Senate. But underneath that rhetoric, get ready for legislation that would do more to undermine our constitutional freedoms and chill their exercise than any other bill I can think of in recent memory. Let’s not walk down this road. Let’s not chill Americans’ exercise of the First Amendment. Let’s defend these freedoms today -- and stay vigilant tomorrow.”
Related Issues: First Amendment