Buckeye v. IRS

For media inquiries, please contact:
Lisa Gates, vice president of communications, The Buckeye Institute
(614) 224-3255 or Lisa@BuckeyeInstitute.org
Tiffany Donnelly, deputy director of communications, Institute for Free Speech
(202) 301-1791 or TDonnelly@ifs.org

Background on the Case

Key Question in the Case: Does the IRS-required disclosure of The Buckeye Institute’s contributors unlawfully and substantially deprive Buckeye and its supporters of the free association and assembly rights secured by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution?

The Buckeye Institute has experienced firsthand the chilling effect that forced donor disclosure has on the freedom of association.

In 2013, shortly after The Buckeye Institute publicly urged Ohio’s governor and General Assembly to reject the federal efforts at Medicaid expansion, our organization was selected for audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Some Buckeye donors feared that this conspicuous audit was likely instigated as retaliation for Buckeye’s prominent role as the leading voice opposing the administration’s proposed Medicaid expansion. Those same donors expressed serious concern that if their names appeared on Buckeye’s records, they too could be potentially subjected to retaliatory individual audits or other such government antagonism. Some of The Buckeye Institute's donors stopped giving entirely, and others began making smaller, anonymous, cash donations in the aftermath of Buckeye’s politically-motivated IRS audit—often foregoing donation receipts and with it tax-deductibility—hoping to avoid any personal political retribution for their financial support of Buckeye.

Facts of the Case

Current Status
The Buckeye Institute v. Internal Revenue Service is pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Columbus Division. 

Case Number

Originally Filed
December 5, 2022

Original Court
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Columbus Division

The Buckeye Institute

Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer, The Buckeye Institute
David C. Tryon, director of litigation, The Buckeye Institute
Jay R. Carson, senior litigator, The Buckeye Institute
Alan Gura, vice president for litigation, Institute for Free Speech
Brett R. Nolan, senior attorney, Institute for Free Speech

Claims in the Case
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service are violating the First Amendment by compelling The Buckeye Institute to disclose the names and addresses of its contributors. Since the disclosure of this private information is not substantially related to any sufficiently important government interest and the government has more narrowly tailored alternatives, The Buckeye Institute is seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief prohibiting the IRS from collecting that information.  

Timeline of the Case

December 14, 2023
The Buckeye Institute and Institute for Free Speech file an amended complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Columbus Division.

November 9, 2023
Judge Watson orders a trial in the case, denying Buckeye’s and the IRS’s requests for summary judgment, denying the IRS’s motion to dismiss the case, and ruling that Buckeye does have standing. 

September 27, 2023
More than 70 leading nonprofit organizations from across America file an amicus brief in support of The Buckeye Institute.

September 1, 2023
The Buckeye Institute files its response to the IRS’s reply to Buckeye’s request for summary judgment, and Buckeye files its response to the IRS’s request for summary judgment.

May 3, 2023
The Buckeye Institute files its motion requesting a summary judgment in Buckeye v. IRS and its memorandum in support of the request.

May 2, 2023
The Buckeye Institute files its brief opposing the IRS’s motion to dismiss Buckeye v. IRS.

December 5, 2022
The Buckeye Institute files The Buckeye Institute v. Internal Revenue Service with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Columbus Division challenging a decades-old tax law that forces the IRS to demand that nonprofit charities hand over the private information of their largest donors every year.