It seems everyone involved agrees that the IRS’s conduct was egregious. It undermines confidence in the agency and the federal government in general. While we are a non-partisan organization, we currently have a 501(c)(4) application pending with the exempt division of the IRS. We received a letter signed by Lois Lerner about a week ago acknowledging our application.
The root problem underlying these organizations is not their political orientation or how much “social welfare” work they do, it’s the fundamental question of whether an individual, a union, a foundation, a non-profit or for-profit corporation has the right to donate to a political cause of their choosing anonymously. That is the question at the heart of this scandal. It’s up to Congress and perhaps the courts to answer it.
We believe that under the 1st Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly that individuals and other entities have the right to donate to a cause without attribution. Our best argument is illustrated in our election system. We have a secret ballot for a reason. It’s so that you can go into the booth and vote your conscience without fear of retribution at work or in your community. The secret ballot is fundamental to our democracy. We feel the same principle applies to donations to a political cause.
Donating anonymously to 501(c)(3) charities is a widely accepted practice. There are many reasons a person wants to make a charitable donation anonymously. So people don’t disapprove of donating money anonymously in general, they disapprove of making political donations anonymously, and that’s where you run into trouble with the 1st Amendment.
As a 501(c)(4) applicant, we await not only the approval of our application, but the resolution of this fundamental issue.