For being so forthcoming, liberals launched a brutal attack on ALEC, led by Common Cause and the racial-grievance group Color of Change, which was founded by self-described avowed communist and disgraced former Obama green jobs czar Anthony K. "Van" Jones. Through boycotts, negative advertising, and other tools of community organizing, they have bullied dozens of companies into pulling their support for ALEC.
Do other organizations have a right to shield their supporters from that type of retribution? The Supreme Court says yes: "It is not sufficient to answer... that whatever repressive effect compulsory disclosure of names of petitioner's members may have... follows not from state action but from private community pressures. The crucial factor is the interplay of governmental and private action, for it is only after the initial exertion of state power represented by the production order that private action takes hold."
Does it surprise anyone that in the current environment conservative groups, in particular, would cherish the privacy of their members and bridle at intrusive information requests from the IRS? They've seen what happened to ALEC. They've seen what happened to supporters of National Organization for Marriage, whose membership list was illegally leaked by the IRS to their principal political opponents. They know professional protesters stands ready to attack and intimidate their supporters.
What might surprise some liberals is that the quotes I've included from the Supreme Court came not from the Roberts Court in Citizens United, but from the Warren Court in NAACP v. Alabama. In that landmark 1958 decision, the Court unanimously found that free association often depends on privacy protection from a government that could use forced disclosure for retribution by itself or by "private community pressures." It's still true.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.
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