Regarding George F. Will’s Nov. 5 op-ed column, “California’s attack on free speech”:
Bipartisan congressional reports and the Justice Department determined the Internal Revenue Service did not deny any nonprofit organization its tax-exempt status based on ideology. The IRS gave extra scrutiny to conservative and progressive “social welfare” nonprofits to determine if these organizations were engaging in substantial partisan politicking contrary to law.
The same Supreme Court that unleashed partisan spending by wealthy corporations and individuals in Citizens United ruled 8 to 1 that it is constitutional to require relevant nonprofit advocacy groups to identify sponsors of political ads, as long as there is no reasonable probability of threats or reprisal. Moreover, electoral transparency furthers First Amendment principles by allowing the public to make informed decisions.
The California case Mr. Will cited does not involve political disclosure but rather whether “charity” nonprofits can be required to provide the names of significant donors so that the government can prevent sham operators from soliciting funds from the public.
The public is tired of large, secret donors corroding our democracy. The Treasury Department and the IRS, in rulemaking recommended by a Republican-appointed Treasury inspector, can help fix the problem by limiting undisclosed partisan spending by tax-exempt “social welfare” nonprofits to an insubstantial amount.
Larry Ottinger, Chevy Chase
The writer, formerly of the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, advises Common Cause on IRS rulemaking.