Treasury Department tacitly endorses debanking opponents of transgender hormones for kids

Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network shared "hate group" and "hate symbol" materials with banks after Capitol riot, with no further instructions. "Bankrolling Bigotry" report calls for stripping tax-exempt status.
US Treasury Department building.

The Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network sees little difference between cryptocurrency transactions that may be tied to Hamas and banking services for U.S. groups that advocate for religious liberty, immigration restrictions and a "watchful waiting" approach to pediatric gender confusion.

That's the impression from FinCEN's email to large banks and financial institutions including Western Union and PayPal, urging them to review a "hate group" report and "hate symbol" database by progressive activists in the context of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

The House Judiciary Committee and its Weaponization of the Federal Government Subcommittee published the Jan. 16, 2021 email in an interim staff report on federal law enforcement "commandeer[ing] financial institutions to spy on Americans."

They held a hearing last week on alleged collusion between big banks and the feds to surveil financial transactions without "any specific evidence of particularized criminal conduct," focused on political terms including "MAGA," purchases of "religious texts" and visits to gun retailers.

The FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center shared an intelligence report with banks in the days after the riot that warned Americans who "expressed opposition to firearm regulations, open borders, COVID-19 lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and the 'deep state'" may qualify as "domestic violent extremists," the staff report said.

The House Oversight Committee asked FinCEN to go back to basics Thursday, seeking a staff briefing on how it's "combatting the exploitation of American businesses for ... triad [organized crime], money laundering and drug cartel activity" backed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Similar committee letters went out to agencies including the Justice Department, U.S. Agency for Global Media and National Science Foundation, asking how they are mitigating CCP "efforts to target, influence, and infiltrate every sector and community" in the U.S.

"In advance of today's discussion," FinCEN's Jan. 16 email titled "Capitol Riots [sic]" offered several links for participating financial institutions to review. The redacted staffer attached the agency's own slide on "key terms applicable to matters related to racially and ethnically motivated extremism" that "may have application to the capitol riots [sic] and related activity." 

FinCEN thanked Japanese bank MUFG for having "kindly circulated a publicly-available overview on the funding of American hate groups," a 2020 report titled "Bankrolling Bigotry."

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Global Disinformation Index wrote the report, supported by the Knight Foundation, perhaps best known for sponsoring public radio. The foundation also supported research on "combining interventions to reduce the spread of viral misinformation."

"The research aimed to map out the online infrastructure behind hate groups’ financing and fundraising to support efforts to defund and therefore disempower hate movements in the US," the report says.

ISD and GDI lump in "anti-immigrant," "anti-LGBTQ" and "anti-Muslim" groups with "militia or street protest," "white supremacist" and "white nationalist" groups in the report, which identifies 73 including one each of "misogynist," "black supremacist" and "Holocaust denial."

A narrow plurality (20) are tagged anti-LGBTQ, including the American College of Pediatricians, which like England's National Health Service opposes the medicalization of gender dysphoria in youth, and public interest law firms Liberty Counsel, Pacific Justice Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has won 15 cases at the Supreme Court.

They share the category with Westboro Baptist Church, known for anti-gay protests at military funerals.

Eight on the list are tagged anti-immigrant, including the Center for Immigration Studies, whose research is routinely cited by congressional Republicans, and Dustin Inman Society, which filed a defamation lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center for getting added to its "hate map" years after SPLC said the group doesn't meet the designation.

The report calls on platforms including PayPal, Stripe and Charity Navigator to "adopt policies which limit their use by hate groups" and "be more proactive and comprehensive in their enforcement" when policies are already on the books.

This must apply even to "non-violent" groups because the "mass proliferation of hatred against minority communities helps inspire violence and fuels community polarization and societal destabilization," the report says.

It calls on payment trade groups to develop "standard-setting guidelines about hate and extremism in order to encourage the broad adoption of policies to limit online fundraising tools for hate groups."

Congress should debate their tax-exempt status, since an "Internal Revenue Service (IRS) designation may act as a sort of kite mark, making platforms and payment providers wary of acting against a group," the report says.

The Knight Foundation didn't answer queries about why, as "social investors" who fund "free expression," it funded advocacy for financially de-platforming groups based on their expression.

ADF senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco testified at the Weaponization hearing about its representation of ministries that endured allegedly discriminatory treatment from their financial institutions, including one led by former Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback.

The firm itself "has become a prime target of activist organizations advocating for viewpoint discrimination in charitable giving," especially SPLC's hate designation, Tedesco said. 

"Since 2019, ADF has received 16 complaints from donors in 13 states" about Fidelity Charitable, "the country’s largest grant maker for donor-advised funds," Tedesco wrote. It either denied their donations to ADF or required them to surrender their anonymity while attaching no conditions to donations for "left-leaning organizations" from the same donors.

Fidelity Charitable only "appears to have stopped" after Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody warned last summer that the practice violates a new state law, but ADF has received similar complaints from donors about Impact Assets, Chicago Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Tedesco said.

FinCEN also recommended the Anti-Defamation League's "hate symbols" database, which includes the Celtic cross despite noting it's a "traditional Christian symbol ... primarily used by non-extremists" that by itself "does not denote white supremacy or racism."

Also listed: the "Okay Hand Gesture," which ADL acknowledges is only associated with "white power" because members of the message board 4chan created the association as part of a series of "hoaxes using various innocuous symbols."

The database also lists "anti-Antifa images" without acknowledging that self-identified antifascists often use violence, vandalism and property destruction against individuals and governments. ADL calls it a "loosely-organized left-wing and anarchist anti-racist movement."

Neither Treasury nor FinCEN responded to queries for how they have responded to the Judiciary Committee about their intention in sending the report and database to big banks and how the recipients were likely to understand the recommendations.