Conservative Free Speech Survives Attack by AG Harris

Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes, flickr

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, in an attempt to burnish her credentials as the liberal successor to Senator Barbara Boxer, has continued the Left’s long tradition of harassment of private citizens when their political views are not aligned with the progressive agenda. Since 2013, Ms. Harris has demanded that national nonprofits turn over their IRS Form 990 Schedule B lists, which gives the names and addresses of donors who contribute $5,000 or more per year. This assault on free speech and democracy was thwarted last Thursday, when a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against Ms. Harris’ order that the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a well-known nonprofit dedicated to free market principles, turn over its list of major donors or stop soliciting contributions in California.

Under current law, nonprofits like the AFP Foundation, are required to file the Form 990 Schedule B identifying major donors with the IRS. The IRS, in turn, is supposed to keep that form confidential. Anyone familiar with the machinations of President Obama’s politicized IRS and the actions of Lois Lerner are well aware of how seriously the IRS considers the confidentiality of private citizens. These nonprofits are also required to register with the state of California, but never before have they been required to submit the IRS forms in California. The AFP Foundation, along with numerous other nonprofit groups, challenged Ms. Harris’ demands in court, and won a significant victory for the First Amendment principles of free speech and free association.

U.S. District Court Judge Manuel L. Real, in his 12-page ruling, stated that “setting aside the Attorney General failure to establish a substantial relationship between her demand for AFP’s Schedule B and a compelling government interest, AFP would independently prevail… because it has proven that disclosing its Schedule B to the Attorney General would create a burden on its First Amendment rights.” In other words, notwithstanding Ms. Harris’ inability to adequately explain why the government needs these records, the resultant chilling effect on free speech that the records demand would ensure, were enough to convince the judge that a permanent injunction against the Attorney General’s order was necessary to protect AFP’s First Amendment rights.

Ms. Harris’ office maintained that the information was required for compliance with California tax law. However, California law already provides the power to obtain donor information via subpoena – in the event that the nonprofit is being investigated for wrongdoing. Nowhere in Ms. Harris’ demands for this donor information was there an indication that any wrongdoing occurred; rather Ms. Harris was advancing the Democrats’ tactic of publicly outing political opponents so that they can be subject to intimidation and retaliation by government officials and the liberal media, to the point where renouncing their views or shrinking away from the public debate are the only available options.

Not so long ago, dissent was considered “the highest form of patriotism.” Now, Democrats are no longer satisfied with personal attacks in the vein of comparing climate change skeptics to Holocaust deniers, or forcing the resignation of business executives for holding unfashionable social views (regardless of their adoption of corporate policies that run counter to those personal views). The latest strategy is to criminalize dissent – witness the actions of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, joined by other Democratic attorneys general, who is attempting to coerce certain energy firms to submit to the current climate change consensus through the threat of investigations and possible fraud and racketeering charges. In another time (and under Republican administrations), the use of prosecutorial powers as a political cudgel would send liberals into convulsions of rage, intoning about dark, Nixonian tactics or vague insinuations of the impending theocracy.

Now, while these maneuvers by Democratic attorneys general will likely not end in prosecution for those energy firms, they do fall in line with what Ms. Harris is attempting here in California, specifically an attempt to suppress and silence their political opponents. That is why the decision last week in federal court was so important to not only AFP, but to the preservation of a free and robust political debate in California and across America. Private citizens should be emboldened to participate in public policy debates, and if their preferred method of civic engagement is a financial donation to an organization with the time and resources to advance certain policies, then those citizens should be able to exercise that right without fear of retribution from government officials.

Kamala Harris will no doubt continue to attempt to curtail the First Amendment should she succeed Barbara Boxer in the Senate – that is where Harry Reid spends his time trying to police political speech, when he is not busy getting into, and losing, fights with exercise equipment. But last Thursday’s decision should serve as a reminder to Ms. Harris that politicians should strive to protect the First Amendment rights of the citizens that they serve, not attempt to intimidate them into silence. Hopefully, AFP and other civic-minded organizations will use this resounding victory to continue to remind her and others of that fact.

Alexander Tomescu is an associate attorney at Wewer & Lacy, LLP, focusing in the practice of election and campaign law.

Comments

  1. ireAmerica says

    Kudos to Judge Real, for an appropriate ruling against AG Harris. However, Ms Harris has committed perjury in this case by her FALSE statement that; “the (donor) information was required for compliance with California tax law.” AG Harris would benefit from criminal prosecution as a deterrent to her further criminal activity in her public service role.

  2. The Party of Dingy Harry did try to repeal the 1st-A in the current session of Congress, so KH is a natural fit for his Caucus of Fascists.

  3. Kommie LaHarris has revealed her true colors, not Democrat Blue but Russian Red. If she wins in June to run for Senate, we should all send her red tee shirts with a yellow hammer and sickle front and back emblazoned with “Kommie La Harris for Senate.”

  4. Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka both donated money to this woman, sometimes called “The queen of sanctuary cities.

  5. A well written, well thought out article presenting Ms. Harris’ ongoing assault on those who she wishes to silence in a way which should garner anyone’s attention. I commend Mr. Tomescu on making, and then presenting in his article, the connections between liberal ideology and erosion of Constitutional rights.

  6. OConservative says

    Good and precise article – unmasking of leftist politicians and their deceitful agenda

  7. This is just another great example of how AG Harris behaves corruptly when she has no right to patrol one’s cause that he/she choose to support. What a great article by Mr. Tomescu!

  8. Good reading of a well written and documented article exposing the never ending left-wing machinations of the California AG. Keep these articles coming.

  9. John Wirts says

    Let’s have her turn over the names and addresses of anyone or any group she has donated t and the amount and date(s). or who she has contributed to and the amount and date(s). I’ll bet there was significant corruption involved, selling votes and giving of exemptions to onerous provisions that left wing unions and business owners want to pass, but once passed, want to be exempted from. Once a bill is passed there should BE NO EXEMPTIONS!!!

  10. Extremely well written article displaying GA Harris corrupt behavior. She has no political right to police one’s choice in what they support. Looking forward to future publishings by Mr. Tomescu.

  11. Eye opening insight in this article. People need to know how rotten Miss Harris is and the agenda that she is trying to propagate. A terrible and frightening prospect that she might become a United States Senator. Thanks, Mr. Tomescu for shedding light on this topic and look forward to your next article.

  12. I generally appreciate Kamala Harris, but this was indeed flagrantly abusive. Excellent points made here. Disagree that individual rights of natural persons are as fleeting as fashion.

  13. hgl/hgc/jdesq. says

    A well written critique of liberal policies and to a larger extent, liberal thought processes. I particularly enjoyed this statement: In another time (and under Republican administrations), the use of prosecutorial powers as a political cudgel would send liberals into convulsions of rage, intoning about dark, Nixonian tactics or vague insinuations of the impending theocracy. genius.

  14. Very well written, and insightful article. Thank you Mr. Tomescu, you clearly have a thourough understanding of these matters. Looking forward to many more.

  15. Emma Hart says

    Very informative and well written. Liberals need to be exposed for their contempt of constitution. Thank you, Mr. Tomescu. I am looking forward to your next article.

  16. BrickbyBrick says

    Suppress rather than debate. Classic liberal tactic. Maybe Ms. Harris and Miley Cyrus should split an apartment in Vancouver come November. I’ll pay the security deposit.

  17. felicia udrea says

    Mr. Tomescu’s article is very well written and very documented. I would like to read more about other any subject witten by the same author

  18. Roy Engstrom says

    Plaudits for Mr. Tomescu for his very well written and outstandingly researched and documented article. Judge Real’s ruling is a welcome and refreshing decision in America where the Constitution is being shredded daily by liberals in offices up to the highest level in the land.
    Looking forward to more sterling articles by Mr. Tomescu!

  19. Alex Feldman says

    The judiciary via attorneys represent an indispensable bulwark against government tyranny. And concerned citizens like Mr. Tomescu serve as the conduit to the public which expose these insidious government machinations

  20. dorin apostu says

    thank you alex for your well written article andfor yourcourage tobringto lightthe twofaces of liberralism in california keep up with your good job looking forwardfor your next articles

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