Washington Examiner: Gov. Steve Bullock’s nosy lawsuit to make the IRS collect more of your data
By Allen Dickerson
As the Supreme Court noted in 1976, when the government demands to know “the giving and spending of money” our freedoms are threatened, “for financial transactions can reveal much about a person’s activities, associations, and beliefs.” It was not for nothing that the IRS was one of Richard Nixon’s favorite tools to harass critics and rivals.
So when the IRS announced it would stop requiring that some nonprofit groups, including labor unions, report the names and addresses of their major donors, everyone should have breathed a sigh of relief. If it doesn’t have this information, the Trump administration cannot misuse it for political gain, or to promote the harassment of donors to left-wing causes.
But Bullock disagrees. His complaint, filed July 24 in federal court, argues that the IRS did not have the statutory power to cease collecting donor information. He’s wrong.
Congress expressly gave the IRS wide discretion to determine the information it needs from nonprofit groups. And federal regulations allow the IRS commissioner to “relieve any … class of organizations … from filing” information when “he determines that such returns are not necessary for the efficient administration of the internal revenue laws.”
Here, the commissioner determined that because contributions to these non-profits (as opposed to 501c(3) non-profits) are not tax-deductible, there is no need to collect donor information to ensure people aren’t improperly claiming deductions. And given the obvious privacy concerns, it was unwise to keep a list of sensitive financial transactions lying around on the IRS’ servers.
Despite all this, Gov. Bullock sued because he would very much like access to private donor information – but without the inconvenience of having to set up his own procedures for getting it.