Politics & Policy

Americans for Prosperity Defends Itself

California attorney general Kamala Harris (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation engages in social activism that might broadly be described as conservative, arguing for free markets and an approach to public policy that accords with the Constitution. In this work, it is supported by donors. Kamala Harris, the California attorney general and Democratic partisan who wishes to replace Barbara Boxer in the Senate, does not approve of such activism, and is demanding from the AFP Foundation a list of its donors.

There is no mystery about why Harris is demanding the donor list. The Left has a long and nasty history of using not only protest and criticism but also harassment to beat private citizens into submission when their political actions displease Democrats. A few highlights worth remembering: The IRS illegally leaked the National Organization for Marriage’s donor list, in order to facilitate harassment of said donors by gay-marriage advocates; Brendan Eich, the founder of Mozilla, was chased out of the firm he started for having once held the same opinion on gay marriage as Barack Obama and then making a donation to further that view; Boston mayor Thomas Menino thuggishly threatened Chick-fil-A with political retaliation in the form of licensure denial in response to the company’s taking a traditionalist view on marriage; Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel similarly threatened the chicken-sandwich chain, saying that he would seek to block any expansion plans it might have in his city.

Is it any wonder that the AFP Foundation — along with at least 60 other nonprofit groups — is resisting Harris’s demands?

#share#Under current law, nonprofits such as the AFP Foundation are required to file a form with the IRS identifying major donors. That form is supposed to be kept confidential, though Barack Obama’s politicized IRS has failed on that count. Such nonprofits also register with the state of California. Right around the time she decided she was going to run for the Senate, Harris began demanding IRS donor forms from AFP and other activist nonprofits in California. If that sounds like something out of the Lois Lerner IRS playbook, it is. There already is a process in place by which state authorities can obtain donor information — if the nonprofits are being investigated for wrongdoing. It is plain enough that that is not what Harris has in mind.

Civil society by definition is not under the thumb of the attorney general or any other politician.

Voluntary associations are a necessary part of civil society, and a necessary part of the democratic process. It is none of Kamala Harris’s business who chooses to associate with whom for what political end. Civil society by definition is not under the thumb of the attorney general or any other politician. What is envisioned by Kamala Harris and other Democrats — including the New York attorney general currently seeking to prosecute people for expressing unpopular views on global warming — is a society that is not multipolar but unipolar, with the state standing in a position of mastery over all. In that sense, Harris’s demands are of a piece with Harry Reid’s effort to repeal the First Amendment and invest Congress with absolute power to police political speech.

The AFP Foundation’s lawsuit against Kamala Harris opens today in a federal district court in California. The organization deserves to prevail, for its own sake and for the sake of civil society and healthful democracy. 

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