Our fight against the Texas Ethics Commission and its allies within the Straus regime in the legislature has been well publicized. The state agency is attempting to do by rule and enforcement action what its legislative allies failed to do by law last session: force conservative groups to turn over their donors for harassment at the hands of jealous and insecure politicians.

In California we see the extremes of where this is all headed. There the California Department of Justice is attempting to require every charity, in order to legally solicit tax-deductible contributions in the state, to hand over the group’s unredacted IRS Form 990 Schedule B. This form lists the names and addresses of all of an organization’s contributors.

The Center For Competitive Politics, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and defending First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly, and petition has taken issue with the California rule and has filed suit to stop it.

The group argues that Federal Law prohibits the California Attorney General from making their request. Furthermore, the group points out that California has expressed no compelling state interest for why it should be allowed to inspect the confidential records of a private organization. The only justification put forward by the California Department of Justice so far seems to be that the state is interested in preventing fraud and abuse by charities.

However, the demand for private records which would be used to prosecute a charity if a violation were found smacks of the ancient “general warrant.” In revolutionary times, these took the form of “writs of assistance,” which empowered the King’s agents to inspect any person or business without limitation. These “hated writs” were so distasteful to our founders that they were specifically forbidden in the Fourth Amendment.

In Texas, we often pride ourselves on having more liberty than liberal states like California and New York. Unfortunately, some in the establishment in this state would have us imitate California, rather than serve as a beacon of freedom to the world.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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