Exposing Donations to Political Causes Can Chill Free Speech
Tammy Giuliani, the owner of Stella Luna Gelato Café in Ottawa, has learned a valuable lesson about privacy.
Giuliani made a $250 donation to the Canadian trucker’s convoy, the movement that briefly paralyzed Canada’s capital and garnered international attention for its protest against COVID-19 mandates. Hackers leaked information about her donation and thousands of others, leading to widespread threats and harassment against the donors. The threats forced the café to close.
“When a group of people first decided they were going to travel across the country to spread this message of solidarity, it seemed like a beacon of hope for small businesses like us,” Guiliani told the Ottawa Citizen. “In retrospect it was bad judgment, but does that mean that people have a right to threaten our staff? Does it mean people have the right to threaten to throw bricks though our window and to threaten my family?”
Americans should take two lessons from these unfortunate events. First: The right to support causes privately and keep our associations to ourselves is important to a healthy and stable civil society. We cannot rid our communities of people and businesses that disagree with us. If people who object to Black Lives Matter or the Tea Party harass every small business that supports these causes, we would soon live in a world with very few small businesses—or very little free speech. Privacy of donations allows everyone to participate in political causes without sacrificing their ability to work and live in a diverse community.
As the Supreme Court ruled in 2021’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, “effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association.” In that case, the Court upheld the rights of Americans to keep their memberships and financial support for causes and organizations private from state officials unless the government had a legitimate reason to
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