Right-wing group wants more privacy for its donors, less for public employees
By DAVID GROVES
(Feb. 27, 2020) — Last Friday, a Washington State Senate committee heard compelling testimony from public employees and their advocates who urged legislators to protect their families’ safety and privacy by passing HB 1888. This bill, which exempts government employees’ birth dates from public disclosure except to the news media, has already passed the House on a strong bipartisan 91-7 vote.
The anti-union Freedom Foundation was also there Friday, testifying against HB 1888. They argued that birth dates should be public information in the name of transparency, regardless of concerns about threats and harassment.
It was quite a pivot from just a couple weeks ago. On Feb. 7, the Freedom Foundation was in the other Washington urging the federal government to do the exact opposite.
They testified in support of a Trump administration proposal to abolish donor disclosure requirements for tax-exempt organizations like… the Freedom Foundation. They argued that ending the long-standing requirement of reporting donor information to the IRS would protect individuals’ right to privacy and protect them from harassment.
As it is, quasi-political tax-exempt groups like the Freedom Foundation have no obligation to disclose donor information to the public — only to the government through the Schedule B form to its 990 annual filing. So today, the public doesn’t know who funds the Freedom Foundation and its anti-union agenda, and they aren’t saying. Even so, the Freedom Foundation is so concerned that donor information could leak out and expose its funders to “harassment” that they want to end that disclosure.
They use public employees’ birth dates to help determine their home addresses — which are already exempt from public disclosure — for the express purpose of contacting them at home to try to convince them to quit their unions. Many government employees who get the Freedom Foundation’s mailings, emails, phone calls, and now, home visits by paid canvassers, consider that unwanted contact to be harassment.
It’s all part of Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe’s master plan to defund organized labor for political reasons. And naturally, his group’s advocacy to make its own dark money even darker also has political motivations. Opponents of the proposed IRS rule change say it has serious implications for the ongoing efforts to limit foreign influence in U.S. elections.
“Dark-money groups backed by foreign corporate donors are supporting the Trump administration’s decision to roll back one of the last remaining ways for authorities to monitor the flow of unlawful campaign cash in American elections,” reads a report in The Intercept:
“These nonprofit groups, which do not have to report any donor information to the public, can receive unlimited contributions from any source and, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, spend unlimited amounts on elections… The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobby organization in the world, spent over $10 million to influence the last 2018 midterm election cycle using its general fund. The group, which has foreign corporate donors, has lobbied in support of the IRS rule to repeal the Schedule B requirement, claiming in a letter to officials that the accidental leak of donors could reduce corporate free speech rights.”
All of this is to say, the Freedom Foundation’s rank hypocrisy on privacy and disclosure is predictably dismissive of government employees’ legitimate privacy and safety concerns. That’s because they don’t care about government employees. Their goals are to pay them less and have fewer of them.
HB 1888 advanced from the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee on Wednesday and now goes before the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Hopefully, it advances soon and gets the Senate floor vote that the legislation — and our public employees — deserve.
David Groves is Editor of The Stand.