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July 24, 2018

BRAD SMITH: The IRS gives up power for once, and the Left goes nuts.

Finally, we might ask why, absent a very good reason, the federal government should ever be collecting data on our memberships and donations in the first place. What business of the government is it if you belong to a fishing club or the National Association of Realtors, or want to support Everytown for Gun Safety or the NRA?

Nonetheless, government agencies can be remarkably unwilling to surrender power or information. So praise is in order for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter for doing away with the requirement. . . .

Even more interesting, however, is the response of the progressive Left and the press. Because some of the organizations now exempt from filing donor information speak out about issues, or make some political expenditures (legally limited by tax law), this modest regulatory rescission is being portrayed as a victory for “dark money” in politics. Now, the Institute for Free Speech has pointed out repeatedly that “dark money” is the political bogeyman of our times — it amounts to a tiny percentage of political spending in the U.S., and attempts to completely end it intrude on the freedom of law-abiding people without providing any useful information to the public.

But let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that stopping “dark money” is an important goal. Here’s the thing: The information the IRS had been collecting was required by law to be kept private! So not reporting the information to the IRS has no legal effect at all on “dark money.” Think about that.

In short, what the progressive and media criticism of the IRS’s decision boils down to is some combination of the following:

They want to whip up hysteria about “dark money,” even when it is irrelevant to the policy at issue.
They want the IRS to illegally leak the data collected.
They hope that a database of donor memberships might be used by a future progressive administration for some unspecified purpose.
They simply don’t want to give up any potential power over Americans and perhaps hope, if the government is already collecting this information, it will be easier to pass more laws intruding on privacy in the future.

Yeah, I don’t trust them.