How did our founders ever manage to establish a republic committed to free speech and the rights of the individual without a Federal Election Commission to regulate that speech and force disclosure of the speaker?
Not only did the Sons of Liberty and other patriots lack a functioning FEC to protect them from “big-money interests,” many of the political communications of the era, including works as consequential as The Federalist Papers, were put forth anonymously.
Consider organizing like-minded people in and between the colonies without TV, radio, the Internet, smart phones and, most important of all, without the Internal Revenue Service to police the people forming non-profit groups and to harass and delay those advocating for more freedom or justice or limited government or – as the specific IRS discrimination policy created by someone somewhere in the bowels of the bureaucracy (but surely without even a smidgeon of bias or bad intent) stipulated – those who dare to “criticize how the country is run.”
Imagine that. Our founders certainly did. So, they gave us the First Amendment. They neglected to give us the FEC or the IRS.
Granted, IRS officials have apologized – in modern-day fashion, which is to say they have not apologized and have shown no contrition at all. While the official story keeps changing as to when this unfair targeting and blocking of grassroots conservative and libertarian groups began, they continually assure us that it has stopped and will not re-occur.
Yet, how can we tell if the “system” or the “culture” has changed?
The IRS tactic of demanding the donor lists of many pro-liberty groups has been roundly condemned, yet Steven Miller, the still acting but resigned IRS Commissioner, told Congress after the scandal broke that “donors can be relevant” to determining 501(c)4 status. How so? Could a non-profit group be a legally valid 501(c)4 if Mr. Jones gives money, but not be valid if Mr. Smith donates instead or in addition? There is no possible way to square such a stance with equal justice under the law.
Does this mean the IRS has a list of American citizens whose contributions to non-profit organizations are considered grounds for harassing, blocking and denying the group legal status?
Had the British imposed such a system on the colonies, I’m certain that a donation from wealthy John Hancock would have been the kiss of death.