Donor Contact: Accountable America

The Times discusses a new group called “Accountable America.”

Nearly 10,000 of the biggest donors to Republican candidates and causes across the country will probably receive a foreboding “warning” letter in the mail next week.

I’ve previously noted a scenario where one campaign allegedly filed a complaint against individual donors.

The election law mailing list also has a few posts on the topic (“McCarthyism” and other threads).

Several blogs are reporting on Google results for “Accountable America” and a line in its homepage’s source code, which refers to “electing Democrats.”

UPDATE:  In Advisory Opinion 2003-24 (National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids), the FEC held, in light of the law’s ban on certain uses of FEC contributor data:

In requiring disclosure of contributor information, Congress provided limitations to ensure that such information was not misused. Congress was concerned that the Act’s reporting requirements “open up the citizens who are generous and public spirited enough to support our political activities to all kinds of harassment . . . .” 117 Cong. Rec. 30057 (1971) (statement of Senator Bellmon). Specifically, Senator Bellmon stated that the purpose of the amendment adding to the Act the prohibition on use of individual contributors’ names and addresses was to “protect the privacy of the generally very public-spirited citizens who may make a contribution to a political campaign or a political party.” Id.

The Commission, in light of this legislative history, reads section 438(a)(4) to be a broad prophylactic measure intended to protect the privacy of the contributors about whom information is disclosed in FEC public records. The communications proposed in your request would target the very persons Congress intended to protect for the very reasons Congress intended to protect them. You stated that NCTFK wants to send the communications to people who have contributed to political campaigns precisely because politically active people are most likely to be responsive. Although not all the proposed communications are for fundraising purposes, all the proposed communications present the possibility of repetitive and intrusive communications to contributors. Such activity would fall within the realm of “harassment” Congress wanted to prevent. 117 Cong. Reg. 30057. The Commission thus concludes that this proposed activity would be antithetical to the very purpose of section 438(a)(4). Therefore, the proposed communications are impermissible.

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