Separate court invalidates California donor disclosure rules
July 1, 2021
Supreme Court Thursday knock down California requires charities and non-profit organizations operating in the state to provide the state attorney general’s office with the names and addresses of their largest donors. 6-3 ruling American Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta This was a major victory for two non-profit challengers, who believed that the rule violated the First Amendment by preventing their donors from making donations. In an objection, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that the ruling may have impacts beyond non-profit and charitable areas, including impact on campaign donations, and wrote that the ruling “used The bullseye marks reporting and disclosure requirements”.
The dispute in the court began in 2014 when two conservative advocacy groups-Thomas More Law Center, a Christian public interest law firm, whose founders included Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino Pizza, and the Prosperity Foundation of America, An influential conservative billionaire Charles Koch-went to the Federal Court to challenge the disclosure requirements. The Federal District Court agreed with these groups that the request violated the First Amendment, but a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned this request. It concluded that the policy requires charities to provide state governments with the same information they have provided to the Internal Revenue Service, which is related to the state’s important interest in regulating charity fraud. The Court of Appeal acknowledged that these groups are concerned that if their donations are made public, their donors may face “serious harassment”-however, the Court of Appeals emphasized that the state collects information only for its own purposes. After the entire Ninth Circuit refused to reconsider the panel’s decision, these groups went to the Supreme Court, which agreed to accept the case in January.
Based on the opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Ninth Circuit. Roberts acknowledged that “California is important for preventing wrongdoing by charities.” Of course, Roberts agrees that the government needs to be able to protect people from fraud. But Roberts went on to say that there is a “huge mismatch” between the desire to prevent fraud and California’s donor disclosure requirements: although the state requires “almost all” of the 60,000 charities that do business in the state to submit documents containing information Form Roberts pointed out that with regard to their main donors, “this information will only become relevant in a few cases” after the complaint has been submitted. The state does not rely on these forms to initiate investigations. If the state needs these forms after the investigation is conducted, there are other ways to obtain these forms. “Then actually, California is less interested in investigating fraud, but more concerned about the convenience of management,” Roberts concluded.
Roberts rejected the state’s argument that the disclosure request would not prevent the donation because the form is confidential. He pointed out that although “secrecy guarantees can reduce the burden of disclosure to the state, it does not eliminate it.” In a footnote, he reprimanded California, adding that “the state’s confidentiality guarantees are of little value.” Roberts said here. The group “has provided evidence that they and their supporters have suffered bomb threats, protests, stalking and physical violence.” Roberts added: “[s]Such risks have intensified in the 21st century and seem to increase year by year because “anyone who can use a computer [can] Compile a large amount of information about any other person, including sensitive details such as a person’s home address or the school his child is attending. “
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, and Judges Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan also joined this opinion. Sotomayor regretted that although the court usually “requires the plaintiff to prove that it actually bears the burden of the First Amendment before requesting a narrow adjustment to the law.” But according to Thursday’s ruling, she argued that “even if the plaintiff did not show any burden at all, the reporting and disclosure requirements must be strictly tailored.” Sotomayor agreed with Roberts’ view that the challenger in this case “has stated that If their identities are publicly exposed, their donors have reason to fear retaliation.” She said that if the court chooses to rule on a particular challenger’s claim, she will “sympathize”. But because of “the court’s decision”, She argued that, “almost not so narrow or modest”, she held a different opinion instead.
This article is Originally published in Howe on the Court.