Urgent Alert: Immediate Action Needed to Defend Nonprofits

There is an alarming issue you need to be aware of.

While I do not use this blogsite to engage in partisan politics, that does not mean that I avoid politics and government relations altogether. I consider myself a bi-partisan, vigorous defender of the nonprofit sector.

CA State House by David Grant via Flickr

California State House

Over the years, I’ve worked with both Democrats and Republicans in my capacity as Chairman of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Political Action Committee, Chairman of the AFP Greater Philadelphia Chapter Government Relations Committee, and a member of the AFP US Government Relations Committee. I’ve even represented AFP in testimony before the Federal Trade Commission.

As a passionate defender to the nonprofit sector and a cheerleader for voluntary philanthropy, I took notice of a recent post on The Agitator blog. Fundraising legend Roger Craver sounded an alert and issued a call to action over a dangerous move by the California Attorney General.

Never before have I reprinted a blog post. However, this issue is so important that, with Roger’s permission, I am sharing his post with you now:

 

If you’re willing to turn over the list of your top donors to the government then you need read no further.

However, if you’re not sure, or you’re absolutely certain you’d be unwilling to give up the donor list, then take this post to your CEO and General Counsel. Immediately.

Why? Because right now the Attorney General of California is set on requiring that any nonprofit seeking a license to solicit funds in the nation’s largest state first turn over their lists of top donors that are filed with the IRS on a supposedly “confidential” schedule of your tax return.

This dangerous and unconstitutional power grab in the name of ‘fundraising regulation’ and ‘consumer protection’ must be stopped.

And it’s up to all of us—nonprofits and the companies that serve them to stand up now and take action.

Whether or not your organization or one you serve solicits funds in California the battle ahead will affect the freedom of speech and privacy rights of every nonprofit in the U.S. and their donors.

In a moment I’ll outline the steps you can take immediately to head off this threat. But first some background.

A year ago this week The Agitator warned about a sinister move by the Oklahoma Attorney General and his special interest contributors to silence the Humane Society of United States (HSUS) using that state’s fundraising regulations.

HSUS has boldly and, so far, successfully fought back.

As I pointed out last August there have been relatively few occasions in modern history where politicians have blatantly sought to use the power of their office to silence nonprofits that opposed them or whose views and ideology they disagreed with.

At the end of the day, Americans and the U.S. Supreme Court have shown little tolerance for political zealots and bullies who abuse U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and due process.

NOW …The Intimidators At It Again. And We Must Make Sure They Lose. Again.

Right now, in an approach reminiscent of the 1958 attempt by the State of Alabama to intimidate and silence the NAACP by seeking to compel it to turn over its membership and contributor lists, the Attorney General of California is also attempting to intimidate a nonprofit by forcing it to give up the names of top donors in order to be granted a permit to solicit funds.

History repeats itself with slight variations. This time it’s a liberal Attorney General (Kamala Harris) in opposition to the conservative Center for Competitive Politics.

It doesn’t matter whether your organization is ideologically ‘liberal’, ‘conservative’, ‘neutral’ or ‘agnostic’ the threat to free speech and due process is exactly the same.

And that’s why it’s time for every organization, every agency and every nonprofit supplier cares about basic constitutional rights to join the fight to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

ACTION STEPS YOU AND YOUR ORGANIZATION SHOULD TAKE

  • The Free Speech Coalition along with dozens of nonprofits and some fundraising agencies are preparing to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court.
  • The greater the number and the more diverse the nonprofits signing on to this brief the greater its impact with the Court. The Justices need to know that regardless of our missions, regardless of our ideologies we are all united in standing up for free speech and due process rights and against the threats and intimidation by political office holders.
  • Here’s draft of the Amicus brief. It offers an excellent summary of the issues involved in this case and the dangers posed by states attorneys’ general abuse of fundraising regulations.
  • These are nonpartisan issues that cut to the core of the privacy of association for donors and members and the right of nonprofits to criticize powerful institutions and public figures.
  • Please take a few minutes right now and share this post and the Draft Amicus Brief with the key folks in your organization.

[If you’d like more information or wish to refer your general counsel, CEO or someone in your organization to the attorney in charge of building this coalition of the concerned please contact Mark Fitzgibbons at 703-392-7676 or mfitzgibbons[at]americantarget.com]

  • And remember success will come only if we stand together and if each of us does our part.

For freedom.

Roger

P.S. Mark Fitzgibbons, the attorney who prepared the draft Amicus Brief, is a long-time warrior on behalf on nonprofit constitutional and donor rights. He’s been part of the active core of the Free Speech Coalition for years and I’ve joined in battle many times. He’s a fighter.

He also serves as President of Corporate Affairs at American Target Advertising whose founder is direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie. In the 40 years Richard and I’ve been battling each other ideologically and politically I think there’s only been one thing we’ve always agreed on: the importance of the Constitutional guarantees of free speech and due process unhampered by the meddling hands officials who abuse their power in attempts to silence those with whom they disagree.

So, once more we go into battle together. I hope you’ll join us.

P.P.S. Time is short. We need to hear from as many organizations as possible. So, when your organization is ready to sign on please identify the name of your organization, and whether it is a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4). I ask that you reply by Friday, August 21.

Please send your reply to mfitzgibbons[at]americantarget.com or to me at Roger[at]TheAgitator.net .

 

That’s what Roger Craver and Michael Rosen say… What do you say?

 

UPDATE (Nov. 16, 2015): Sadly, the US Supreme Court has chosen not to hear this important case. The Nonprofit Times reported that the legal battle is not over yet. “We are very disappointed that the Supreme Court decided not to review the 9th Circuit’s decision. The case is not over and we will study our legal options before making our next move,” said Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) President David Keating. “It is possible, for example, that the court did not want to review the denial of a preliminary injunction and will decide to hear the case after the lower courts have ruled on the merits of the case.” Let’s hope so.

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4 Comments to “Urgent Alert: Immediate Action Needed to Defend Nonprofits”

  1. I completely agree with you and Roger, and many, many others on this. Regardless of one’s own ideology, this is a fight no one can afford to lose — right, left, center, or whatever. The next voice that is bullied, threatened, intimidated, or “regulated” into silence might be yours.

  2. Michael,

    As it states in the AFP Code of Ethical Standards:

    “TREATMENT OF CONFIDENTIAL & PROPRIETARY INFORMATION

    Members shall:

    17. not disclose privileged or confidential information to unauthorized parties”

    Donor information is confidential information. That means it shall not be shared with anyone without their permission.

    The actions of Kamala Harris would force nonprofits and their development staff to violate their ethical standards. It is definitely a punitive over-reach on her part, and a blatant attempt to get the support of Planned Parenthood for her future run for the U.S. Senate.

    Thank you for sharing this information.

    • Richard, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important matter. Unfortunately, those with the most and the biggest guns, get to write the rules and determine what is “authorized” or not. Sadly, this is a direct contradiction of the views of the nation’s Founding Fathers who felt that power should rest with the people rather than the government. What we are seeing in California is a power over-reach likely for political reasons. Fortunately, we have a judicial system that can act as a counter-balance to the other two branches of government. Let’s hope that that is how it plays out in California.

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