‘Donor transparency” is a fixation of Democrats such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and others on the left who bemoan the influence of “dark money”—not their own money but others’. Canada is now offering a preview of what that transparency would mean for political speech.
After GoFundMe shut down the crowdfunding effort for Canada’s trucker protests, and before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to freeze, without court orders, bank accounts linked to the protests, supporters turned to a small website called GiveSendGo.
The Christian crowdfunding platform had received more than $8.7 million from individual donors intended for the “freedom convoy” opposing Canada’s vaccine mandates. On Sunday GiveSendGo was hacked and shut down by political opponents, who exposed the names, emails, locations and other personal information of 92,845 donors. Public harassment followed.
On Feb. 5, the owner of Ottawa’s Stella Luna Gelato Café made a $250 donation to the protest. When this became public, callers threatened to throw bricks through her store window. She ordered the shop closed. On Tuesday she recanted her support for the truckers to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.
Twitter users are posting names, jobs and locations of donors—from corporate executives and civil servants to masseuses and taekwondo instructors. One account doing the “doxxing,” itself anonymous, clarifies: “If you disagree with the views of businesses listed here, do the Canadian thing: Do not patronize them, or write a sternly worded letter. That’s it.” Harassment will follow anyway, but even if not, do we need more boycotts? Liberals boycotting right-wing real-estate agents and conservatives boycotting left-wing graphic designers?
Major news outlets in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. are contacting the donors, asking them to justify their contributions. Many donors feel pressure to recant or desist from further financial expression of their views. For many journalists, that is no doubt the goal.
Americans experienced an example of this “donor transparency” some years ago with California’s Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced to resign after his donation to supporters of the referendum came to light, and he wasn’t the only one. A film-festival president and a restaurant manager also were forced out following boycott campaigns.