Washington, DC:

It’s no secret conservative organizations and their supporters are under attack. The Left is orchestrating an effort to harass and intimidate people who support conservative causes, a persecuted class. Part of their attack forces organizations like yours to report the names and addresses of your donors to the government, and then exposing those names and addresses on government websites for anyone to see.

What the IRS could not accomplish by targeting conservative groups, left-leaning groups are increasingly pressuring state legislatures and state attorneys general to do. When they can’t get lawmakers to force donor disclosure, they go straight to voters with misleading and deceptive ballot initiatives, such as “anti-corruption” initiatives to promote “transparency”, like those proposed right now in Arizona, Arkansas, California, South Dakota, and at the city level. That’s just the beginning. Go to (a so-called “anti-corruption” project run by Progressives) to see if your state is among their many targets.

As a persecuted class, conservatives are bullied to either conform or suffer retribution, such as public shaming or having their customer base antagonized. If you’re outted for donating to what some would consider the “wrong side” of an issue, you may get fired, as we saw with Brendan Eich of Mozilla. Or you may have your door bashed in with a battering ram in the middle of the night, as we know happened to folks associated with the Club for Growth in Wisconsin, the infamous “John Doe” cases.

This well-coordinated, well-funded effort to require conservative nonprofits like yours to divulge the names and addresses of your donors is all part of a plan to choke off our air supply of funding. One group bluntly told the New York Times they “planned to confront donors to conservative groups, hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions” by exposing donors to “legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.”

What’s worse is that the Left has turned the transparency concept on its head to dupe conservative legislators and well-meaning TEA Party groups to help advance their initiatives. In many cases, Republican state lawmakers are proposing these disclosure measures. In 2014, Tallahassee voters adopted a city-level initiative that could force donor disclosure, co-sponsored by the local tea party group. Let’s be perfectly clear: transparency is for government; privacy is for people, not vice versa! All of us will do well to understand this fundamental difference.

This is an affront to the deeply held values that are enshrined in the First Amendment. Every American has the right to support causes they believe in. To keep that right a reality, we must protect individual privacy. We must protect people’s ability to come together, to freely associate, in support of each other. We must protect the resources they need to make their voices heard.

That’s why we must pay more attention to this growing effort in the states to “ban dark money.” Dark money is a pejorative term for private giving and it was coined by a left-leaning organization after the Citizen’s United decision. But we need to stop and think about this term before we continue to use it ourselves.

Calling private donations “dark money” is like saying your right to a private ballot is “dark voting.” Just as the right to pull the curtain closed behind us as we vote for our chosen candidates is sacrosanct, so too is our right to support charities and interest groups without the government standing over our shoulder and sharing the information with the wider world.


Trends in the states:

We face a wave of state legislation to force disclosure, state regulators taking unilateral action to force disclosure, and ballot measures to force disclosure.

In at least six states in 2015, state lawmakers considered bills written so broadly and vaguely that everyday activities of 501c3 groups, like communicating with your supporters about proposed laws that impact our missions, would have been reclassified as “electioneering communications” and the groups re-termed “political committees” and therefore subject to donor disclosure requirements that are meant for candidate campaign committees. We expect to see even more proposed laws in 2016. Right now, we know forced donor disclosure laws have already been introduced or will be in Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.

We also saw several “ethics” bills aimed at rooting out corruption among state officials, but instead of shining a light where it matters—on the elected officials themselves—the focus becomes forcing private organization with a perspective on policy issues to report the names and addresses of their supporters to the government. These bills were introduced in at least South Carolina and Texas.

There is also ample evidence of efforts to redefine “coordination.” In the campaign finance context, coordination means a nonprofit group can’t join up with a candidate campaign to try to skirt campaign contribution disclosure laws. But now the push is to broaden this definition to prevent two private organizations that share a mission from working together to advance an idea. In other words, they want to use the law to prevent center-right groups from sharing information and resources, from freely associating.

Another disturbing trend is that some state regulators are going rogue. Already in more than a dozen states non-profits can be forced to hand over their list of top supporters before they can even do business in the state. The problem with this is that once a document is given to a state agency, it becomes subject to public records law. For example, if a group like yours was forced to turn over its supporter list to the State of New York in order to fundraise there, and a left-leaning group wanted to get that list, they could send a public records request to the state attorney general who regulates charities, and there is no mechanism in state law to decline the request. This is a backdoor way to expose your donors.

We’re also witnessing state ethics commissions and campaign finance regulators unilaterally deciding certain groups must reveal their donors before they can testify at the state legislature or do other activities protected by the First Amendment.

Help stop the momentum forcing donor disclosure. Please take action now and alert your members and supporters by explaining what real transparency means (transparency is for government; privacy is for people) and how the Left is threatening their privacy, and the movement to protect liberty. Make no mistake about your role: we are now the movement not just of free markets, but of free speech as well.


The Honorable Edwin Meese III
Former Attorney General
President Ronald Reagan

David Bozell

Michael A. Needham
Chief Executive Officer
Heritage Action for America

Marjorie Dannenfelser
Susan B. Anthony List

The Honorable Colin A. Hanna
Let Freedom Ring, Inc.

Mr. Alfred S. Regnery
Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund

The Honorable J. Kenneth Blackwell
Constitutional Congress, Inc.

The Honorable T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr.
Former Domestic Advisor
President Ronald Reagan

Tracie Sharp
President and CEO
State Policy Network

Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform

Kevin Freeman
NSIC Institute

Willes K Lee
Executive Vice President
National Federation of Republican Assemblies

Beldon Bell
The Heritage Foundation

David Y. Denholm
Public Service Research Foundation

C. Preston Noell III
Tradition, Family, ‎Property, Inc.

Andresen Blom
Executive Director
Grassroot Hawaii Action

Robert K. Fischer
Conservatives of Faith

Robert D. Thompson
The Weyrich Lunch

Ralph Benko

Amy Frederick
60 Plus Association

Bradley Mattes
Life Issues Institute

Jenny Beth Martin
Tea Party Patriots

Lewis K. Uhler
Founder and President
National Tax Limitation Committee

Tricia Erickson
Angel Pictures & Publicity

Trent England
David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

Sabrina Schaeffer
Executive Director
Independent Women’s Forum

Nancy Schulze
American Prayer Initiative

Mark Fitzgibbons
President of Corporate Affairs
American Target Advertising, Inc.

Paul Caprio
Family Pac Federal

Floyd Brown
Western Center for Journalism

William J. Murray
Religious Freedom Coalition

Thomas Donelson
Americas PAC

David N. Bossie
Citizens United

Amy Ridenour
The National Center for Public Policy Research

J. Christian Adams
Public Interest Legal Foundation

Carol Tobias
National Right to Life Committee

Dan Backer
American Dream Initiative

Shaun McCutcheon
Coolidge Reagan Foundation

Larry Ward

Niger Innis

Kent Ostrander
Executive Director
The Family Foundation (KY)

Len Deo
Founder & President
New Jersey Family Policy Council

Austin Ruse

Gene Mills
Louisiana Family Forum

Jim Minnery
Alaska Family Action

Cleta Mitchell, Esq.
Foley & Lardner, LLP

Adam Brandon
President and CEO

Michael Geer
Pennsylvania Family Council

Day Gardner
National Black Pro-Life Union

William J. Murray
Religious Freedom Coalition

Darrell Burchfield
Cornerstone Family Policy Council of Idaho

Jason Jones
Movie to Movement

David W. Preston
Executive Director
Oklahoma Wesleyan University Foundation

Eli Lehrer
The R Street Institute

Everett Piper, PhD
Oklahoma Wesleyan University

John Dodd
Jesse Helms Center Foundation

Alan Gottlieb
Second Amendment Foundation

Bruce Chapman
Chairman of the Board
Discovery Institute

Thomas S. Winter
Editor Emeritus
Human Events

Joseph Bast
The Heartland Institute

(All organizations listed for IDENTIFICATION purposes only)

UPDATED: 2/5/16

The Honorable Becky Norton Dunlop
Chairman, Conservative Action Project
Former White House Advisor, President Ronald Reagan

The Honorable Bob McEwen
U.S. House of Representatives
Former Member, Ohio

Erick-Woods Erickson
The Resurgent

L. Brent Bozell, III
Founder and President
Media Research Center

The Honorable David McIntosh
Club for Growth

Luke Hilgemann
Americans for Prosperity

The Honorable Tony Perkins
Family Research Council

Mr. William L. Walton
Vice President
Council for National Policy

Starlee Coleman
State Policy Network

David Williams
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Phil Kerpen
American Commitment

Gary L. Bauer
American Values

Alan P. Dye, Esq.
Webster, Chamberlain & Bean

Judson Phillips
Tea Party Nation

Quin Hillyer
Veteran conservative columnist

Melissa Ortiz
Founder & Principal
Able Americans

Charles J. Cooper
Cooper & Kirk, PLLC

Tim LeFever
Capitol Resources Institute

Jim Martin
60 Plus Foundation

Bill Pascoe
Antietam Communications

Penny Nance
Concerned Women for America

Allen Roth
Secure America Now

Mathew Staver
Founder & Chairman
Liberty Counsel

Mike Spence
Conservative Republicans of California

Heather Higgins
President and CEO
Independent Women’s Voice

Kelly Shackelford, Esq.
President, CEO
Liberty Institute

Paul Gessing
Rio Grande Foundation

Ted Baehr
Member, Broadcast Film Critics Association

Ron Robinson
Young America’s Foundation

David Boyle
Executive Director
Alaska Policy Forum

Lisa B. Nelson
American Legislative Exchange Council

Cathi Herrod
Center for Arizona Policy

Keith Wiebe
American Association of Christian Schools

Thomas P. Kilgannon
Freedom Alliance

Larry Hart
Hartco Strategies

Rev. Louis P. Sheldon
Founder and CEO
Traditional Values Coalition

Andrea S. Lafferty
Traditional Values Coalition

Oran P. Smith, PhD
President & CEO
Palmetto Family

Allen Whitt
Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Carroll Conley
Executive Director
Christian Civic League of Maine

Dale A. Bartscher
Executive Director
Family Heritage Alliance Action

Julaine K. Appling
Wisconsin Family Council

John Helmberger
Chief Executive Officer
Minnesota Family Council

Dan Schneider
Executive Director
American Conservative Union

Jeff Laszloffy
Montana Family Foundation

Julie Lynde
Executive Director
Cornerstone Family Council Idaho

David Fowler
The Family Action Council of Tennessee, Inc.

Joe Ortwerth
Executive Director
Missouri Family Policy Council

Alex St. James
Executive Director
Blacks Economic-Security Trust BEST

Brian S. Brown
National Organization for Marriage

Peter J. Thomas
Americans for Constitutional Liberty

Nadine Maenza
Executive Director
Patriot Voices

Donna Hearne
The Constitutional Coalition

Peter J. Thomas
Americans for Constitutional Liberty

The Honorable James C. Miller III
Former Director of OMB
President Ronald Reagan

Somers H. White, CPAE FIMC
Former Arizona State Senator

Sean Noble
American Encore

Terrence Scanlon
Capital Research Center

Bradley A. Smith
Center for Competitive Politics

Allen J. Hébert
American-Chinese Fellowship