IFS v. Becerra

admin Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

Today, we filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit supporting a challenge against the California Attorney General’s demands for the large donor lists (IRS Form 990 Schedule B) of charitable organizations who wish to register to solicit donations in that state. We argued that the AG’s requirement creates a condition precedent that violates the right to peacably assemble. We also explained that the new rule does not only risk public dissemination of donor information, as has already happened in California, but also the risk that politicized Attorney Generals in New York and California — Kamala Harris, Xavier Becerra, and Eric Schneiderman — would misuse the information. We also raised the distinct possibility that the AG is committing the federal crime of solicitation of taxpayer information because it is conditioning the ability to raise funds in California on the “voluntary” provision of the confidential donor lists. Finally, we argued that 9th Circuit precedent in similar cases improperly relied on election law cases, requiring that IFS’ case be heard en banc.

Link to brief

In Re: Jackson Charitable Trust

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law, Pennsylvania Superior Court

This important case resolves an issue of Trust Law. It addresses the issue of the respective roles of Institutional Trustees and Individual
(Family) Trustees in making distributions when the Trust Instrument grants that authority to both. PNC bank refused to process the Jackson Family to make grants to conservative, pro-liberty, pro-free enterprise charities, on the theory that they were “political.” PNC Bank wanted money distributed almost exclusively to Pittsburgh area charities and those providing direct aid to the poor. The Pennsylvania Superior Court roundly rejected the position of PNC Bank, and upheld the Jackson Family on almost every issue. Read More

Patriotic Veterans v. Curtis Hill, Attorney General of Indiana

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today we co-counseled the filing of a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Patriotic Veterans, a nonprofit organization based in Illinois.  This Petition brings to the High Court a First Amendment challenge to an Indiana law barring most nonprofit organizations from using automated dialing equipment to conduct issue advocacy and grassroots lobbying.  Our Petition explains that the First Amendment, as reaffirmed by a long line of Supreme Court decisions, vests in each homeowner the right to decide whether to receive a visitor at a door, and that same principle applies to receiving a message delivered by telephone.  State legislators are often annoyed when constituents learn what bills are pending, and what is going on behind closed doors in the legislature.  They are particularly annoyed when constituents besiege them with messages telling them how they want them to vote.  However, state legislators have no right to enact laws to shut down issue advocacy and grassroots lobbying, intruding themselves between nonprofit organizations like Patriotic Veterans and the people of Indiana. Read More

Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Xavier Becerra

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

Today we filed a brief for the Free Speech Coalition and a large number of nonprofit orgainzations opposing efforts by the Attorney General of California to compel the disclosure by nonprofit organizations soliciting funds in that state of the names of their largest donors.

The issue in the case involves conditioning the ability to fundraise in California on disclosing confidential information to a politician — in this case, a state Attorney General.  Our brief explains why the First Amendment’s Anonymity principle applies, and why all such laws are unconstitutional licensing schemes.  We also explain why the federal tax scheme governing the filing of IRS Form 990 Schedule B’s protects the identity of donors, and that state officials can only obtain this information upon making a specific showing of illegal activity.  Therefore, this requirement, imposed by the Attorney General of California, is an unconstitutional prophylactic rule unrelated to any showing of fraud. Read More

Citizens United v. Schneiderman

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

Today we filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit opposing efforts by the Attorney General of New York from implementing new procedures requiring every nonprofit organization which solicits funds in that state to provide him with the names, addresses, and donation amounts of the organization’s largest donors.  Although the Attorney General of New York insists that the information would be kept by him and not shared with the public, the First Amendment protects Americans from divulging their anonymous political activities to politicians — especially highly political politicians like state attorney generals — who know how to use their discretionary power to chill the political activities of wealthy individuals. Read More

FSC/FSDEF Comments Urging IRS to Protect Nonprofit Donor Lists

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Nonprofit Law

On behalf of the Free Speech Coalition and Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, we submitted comments to the IRS asking it to protect the confidentiality the donor lists of nonprofit organizations.  The IRS had invited comments on its Publication 1075 relating to security guidelines for government agencies in possession of confidential tax
information.

Our comments explained how the California and New York attorneys general are demanding the names of its larger donors as a condition of nonprofit organizations fundraising in those states. We explain how such efforts violate both federal law and the U.S. Constitution.  The comments urged the IRS to address this problem in its revisions to Publication 1075. Read More

FSC Letter to Congressman Fleming Supporting Impeachment of Koskinen

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law

Today, on behalf of the Free Speech Coalition, we sent a letter to Congressman John C. Fleming, M.D., expressing the Free Speech Coalition’s support for H.Res. 828, the House’s impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

In addition to supporting impeachment for his malfeasance in concealing the nefarious deeds of Lois Lerner, our letter explains his nonfeasance in failing to protect confidential taxpayer information in the form of Schedules B listing large donors to nonprofit organizations. Read More

Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Harris
Thomas More Law Center v. Harris

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

Today we filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit for the Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, the Free Speech Coalition and other nonprofits attacking a new interpretation of law by the the California Attorney General.  Under this new interpretation, as a per-condition to soliciting contributions in California, each charity must provide provide the Attorney General with its IRS Form 990 Schedule B which identifies the charity’s largest donors Read More

Ohio Election Commission v. Susan B. Anthony List — Amicus Brief Filed Opposing Ohio’s “Ministry of Truth”

Michael Harless Election Law, Nonprofit Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Taking a page out of Orwell’s novel 1984, the Ohio Elections Commission operates as a modern “Ministry of Truth’ — with the power to “determine” and “proclaim” the truth or falsity of every statement made during an Ohio political campaign. Our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that the government has no legitimate role whatsoever to play in guiding Americans as to how to vote. Read More

Young America’s Foundation v. Alice M. Wood Amicus Brief for Citizens United, et al. in the Appellate Court of Illinois Second District

Michael Harless Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law

Today our firm filed an amicus brief in the case of Young America’s Foundation v. Alice M. Wood in the Appellate Court of Illinois Second District in support of appellant.

Our amicus brief was filed on behalf of Citizens United, Citizens United Foundation, Free Speech Coalition, Inc., U.S. Justice Foundation and 51 other amici curiae.

Link to brief

National Taxpayers Union v Social Security Administration Amicus Brief in Support of Petitioner U.S. Supreme Court

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today, our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of petitioner National Taxpayers Union. At issue in this case is the constitutionality of a statute — section 1140 of the Social Security Act — which was misused to uphold significant penalties against National Taxpayers Union for engaging in core political speech, entitled to the strongest First Amendment protection possible. The amicus brief submits that the court of appeals erred by failing to apply correctly certain precedents of the Supreme Court, and that the decision of the court of appeals, if allowed to stand, would impede the free exercise of core political speech by persons and organizations critical of government policies and programs. Read More

Free Speech Coalition Critique of House Efforts to Restrict Grassroots Lobbying

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law

With the House of Representatives soon to vote on the lobbying reform bill, the Campaign Legal Center has issued a memo arguing that grassroots restrictions are clearly constitutional under existing law.  We prepared this analysis for the Free Speech Coalition explaining why such restrictions are unconstitutional, and why the analysis of the Campaign Legal Center is flawed.

Link to analysis

FSC Comments to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law

On behalf of the Free Speech Coalition, we submitted post-hearing comments to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance relating to its staff report and June 22, 2004 hearings on “Charity Oversight and Reform: Keeping Bad Things from Happening to Good Charities.” The comments point out shortcomings of many of the proposed solutions contained in the discussion draft.

Link to comments

Postal Service Proposed Regulations on First Class Rates

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Nonprofit Law

On behalf of the Free Speech Coalition, we filed comments with the U.S. Postal Service expressing the concern that the proposed regulations, which clarify the type of mail that must be entered at First-Class rates and that which is eligible for Standard mail rates, would inappropriately shift much educational mail from Nonprofit Standard to First-Class rates.

Link to comments

Statement Presented on Charitable Solicitation to New York State Senate

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law

Today, Bill Olson presented a statement on behalf of the Free Speech Coalition to the Committee on Consumer Protection of the New York State Senate.  The Senate Committee had sought input on the “public disclosure of charities rates of donor retention and use, industry regulation and the adequacy of current laws pertaining to charitable telemarketing solicitation.”

Link to comments

James E. Ryan, Attorney General of Illinois v. Telemarketing Associates, Inc, et al.

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Our firm filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, Inc., Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, American Target Advertising, Inc., Eberle Communications Group, Inc., Gun Owners Foundation, English First, Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, and Citizens United Foundation in support of respondents Telemarketing Associates, Inc., et al. Read More

Aid Association for Lutherans v. United States Postal Service

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law, Postal Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

Our firm filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Free Speech Defense and Education Fund focusing on the lack of procedural due process that inexorably attaches to the Postal Service’s interpretation of 39 U.S.C. section 3626(j)(1)(B) that its decisions as to who can mail what at nonprofit rates are not reviewable in federal court. Our constitutional analysis supplies the court with an additional reason for construing 39 U.S.C. section 410(a) narrowly. Read More

Comments Filed for Free Speech Coalition Regarding IRS Regulation of Excess Benefit Transactions

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law

Our firm filed comments on behalf of the Free Speech Coalition, Inc. with the Internal Revenue Service regarding IRS temporary regulations relating to excise taxes on excess benefit transactions under section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Code. These comments were discussed on the front page of the April 30, 2001 issue of EOTR (Exempt Organization Tax Review) Weekly

Link to comments

ATA v. Giani

Michael Harless Nonprofit Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Our firm filed the brief of Free Speech Defense and Education Fund as amici curiae in support of petitioner in American Target Advertising, Inc. v. Francine A. Giani, Division Director, Utah Division of Consumer Protection in the United States Supreme Court. The brief argues that Utah’s Charitable Solicitations Act is unconstitutional. The Free Speech Defense and Education Fund was joined by 47 co-amici. Read More