February 22, 2023
To: Members of the New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee
From: Americans for Tax Reform
Re: Reject A. 4372
Dear Members of the Appropriations Committee,
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across New Jersey, I urge you to reject A. 4372, an unconstitutional attack on freedom of speech and association.
This legislation would force the disclosure of personal information of people who contribute to 501(c)4 non-profit organizations, subjecting them to harassment, abuse, and potentially worse. New Jersey’s citizens deserve to have their First Amendment rights to free speech and association protected, not undermined by their own elected representatives. Despite some modifications, the bill would still violate their constitutional rights.
Privacy is required to protect the rights of New Jerseyans, and all Americans, to speak freely and petition their government. These principles are what allow Americans to support their favorite charities, government watchdogs, community and religious organizations, without fear that those in power who disagree will punish or intimidate them – or that an online mob will try to get them fired.
Multiple court decisions have made it clear to politicians in New Jersey, and across the country, that forcing this type of disclosure of personal information to the government is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court most recently ruled, in their decision in AFPF v. Bonta, that a level of privacy is critical to our right to free speech – otherwise those in power, or those who disagree can persecute and threaten Americans into silence. This recent decision builds on the landmark decision in NAACP v. Alabama, in which the court famously said the NAACP did not have to turn over its supporter information to the state – which obviously would have resulted in persecution.
This is not an issue of right or left, groups from across the ideological spectrum and who work on a multitude of issues oppose disclosure. It is an issue of rights, principle, and accountability for government.
Polling shows that Americans understand what is at stake in the current highly-charged climate. According to a Siena Poll: Over half of Americans have not spoken freely due to fear of retaliation, and only 34% of respondents said Americans completely enjoy freedom of speech. Meanwhile, 70% of voters support private giving, and 70% don’t think anyone has a right to know what groups they contribute to, according to a People United for Privacy survey.
If concerns about misuse of a non-profit group by an elected official is a concern, punishing New Jerseyans and legitimate organizations is the wrong response. A non-profit advocacy group that is appropriately engaging on legislative issues should not suddenly be treated as if they are a political entity directly trying to elect candidates because they mention what elected officials are doing.
These groups serve as important watchdogs on legislation, representing the interests of citizens who care about certain policy issues, but who do not have the time to follow the day-to-day happenings in the legislature. Forcing disclosure of contributors to these groups would sideline them. There are already laws and regulations governing how these organizations operate, and they can also lose their non-profit status for violating these rules.
ATR strongly urges you to stand up for free speech, and private giving: oppose and reject A. 4372.
Grover G. Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform