SCOTUS Ruling Protects Donors From Political Retaliation

SCOTUS Ruling Protects Donors From Political Retaliation

( – On Thursday, July 1, the US Supreme Court made its last ruling of the term ahead of its summer recess. The case involved a California law that required nonprofits to disclose their donors to state regulators. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Thomas More Law Center sued the state, alleging the law created an unconstitutional burden under the First Amendment.

The two Conservative nonprofits challenged the Democrat-led state for requiring them to include a separate disclosure of major donors who supported them financially with their registration. It’s a separate document from the one required by the IRS. The charities allege the donor reporting requirement could discourage donors because they might worry their names could become public information. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the charities and ruled the law unconstitutional.

There Is Clear Precedent

While it may not be comfortable reading at this moment in US history, the two nonprofits used a 1958 Supreme Court ruling to make their case. At that time, the Alabama state government was using lists of “ordinary rank-and-file members” of the NAACP to threaten member’s jobs, economic reprisals, physical coercion, and other forms of hostility. The Supreme Court ruled that the state ultimately discouraged people from participating in the organization for fear of exposure.

The two nonprofits in the current case expressed concern about today’s political environment. They said potential donors withhold donations over fear that their identities will become known and they could endure harassment and retaliation for supporting Conservative causes. While California considers the information private today, it could become public tomorrow. Additionally, California is known to post donor names online erroneously.

Supreme Court Sides With Donors

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that collecting donor names and information isn’t vital to the state’s fraud detection efforts. Additionally, he said the two nonprofits provided ample support that their donors faced personal threats, protests, and stalking.

Roberts added that the deterrent effect was real even if not all nonprofits share the concern.

It’s another victory for privacy concerns that the Supreme Court continues to drive home. Constitutional rights trump state power grabs.

Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst

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