Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Buckeye Institute: Message from the President

Dear Friends,

My headlamp strained to illuminate the icy ground in the pitch-blackness. I was climbing a glacier on Mount Rainier, making the final push for the summit around 2 a.m.

Success lay a short distance in front of me.

When I took the next step, my whole body free fell. The secure-looking ground in front of me was in fact nothing more than snow forming a "bridge" over a deep fissure--a crevasse--in the glacier. To avoid continuing to fall to unknown depths below, I plunged my ice axe forward into solid ice, and was able to pull myself back to safety. There would be no summit this time, I would have to turn back to base camp, but I would be back to fight another day.

Sometimes we give a worthy cause everything we have, rising in the middle of the night to attempt the summit, but are nonetheless handed defeat. Yesterday was such a day. The defeat was not on one of my beloved mountains, but at the United States Supreme Court, where The Buckeye Institute's Legal Center was fighting for you. Let me explain.

The Buckeye Institute works tirelessly to defend the First Amendment rights of citizens to be able to support charitable causes they believe in without being put on a government list. Whether you support free-market or progressive causes; gun rights or gun control; pro-life or pro-choice causes is none of the government's business, thank you very much. This long-acknowledged constitutional right has been under attack in several states, and Buckeye has gone to the courts to defend the privacy of supporters of all causes--from left to right and everything in between.

The most recent abuse came from Delaware, where state law requires charities that publish items (even on the internet) mentioning the name of a candidate within 60 days of an election to report to the government the names, addresses, and contribution amounts of all donors who gave more than $100 to the group--even if the individual gave to the charity for purposes other than the publication. Non-partisan voter guides, policy reports, and summaries of legislation are a few of the kinds of communications that could require charities to make this unconstitutional reporting.

With the able assistance of brilliant attorneys at Jones Day, The Buckeye Institute joined our friends at the Center for Competitive Politics in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Delaware's law in a case called Delaware Strong Families v. Denn. Yesterday, the Court declined to hear the case. As disappointing as this setback is, the Court did not uphold the law either--it simply chose not to make a decision one way or the other.

Yet there is reason for hope.

Like an ice axe sunk deep into a solid glacial ice, Justice Thomas persuasively argued not only that the Court should have heard the case, but strongly suggested that this law is unconstitutional. Thomas observed that "[g]iven the specter of these First Amendment harms, a State's purported interest in disclosure cannot justify revealing the identities of an organization's otherwise anonymous donors." And Justice Alito stated that he would have heard the case as well.

And so, we will be back to fight another day. For you. And for all Americans to be free to support whatever causes you choose without fear of intimidation and the threat of being put on some permanent government list. And next time, we aim to make the summit.


Robert Alt

P.S. Won't you join us in continuing the fight? Your contribution helps us to continue our work to support the right of all Americans to support causes without it going on your "permanent record."

P.P.S. Here is a glimpse of a 50-foot deep crevasse that I encountered on the ill-fated Rainier climb (not the one I fell into). As for my own fight, I am going back to climb Mount Rainier in September....

Photo of Mount Rainier

Founded in 1989, The Buckeye Institute is an independent research and educational institution--a think tank--whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.

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