- Whether a state official’s demand for all significant donors to a nonprofit organization, as a precondition to engaging in constitutionally-protected speech, constitutes a First Amendment injury; and
- whether the “exacting scrutiny” standard applied in compelled disclosure cases permits state officials to demand donor information based upon generalized “law enforcement” interests, without making any specific showing of need.
The case involved a California law that requires tax-exempt charitable organizations to file reports with the state Registry of Charitable Trusts. Pursuant to that law, California Attorney General Pamela Harris required such charities to submit a list of the names and addresses of its major donors. Thus, all charities soliciting donations in California must provide the state A.G. with a copy of their IRS 990 form, which contains such donor information. That information is not made public but is used by the state A.G. to ensure compliance with the law and to safeguard against fraud and illegality.
The California law was challenged by the Center for Competitive Politics (a 501(c)(3) that works on election law). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Center sought to enjoin the California Attorney General from requiring it to disclose the names and contributions of its “significant donors.”
A panel of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the Center’s claims that such compelled disclosure violated its First Amendment associational rights.
→ Amicus briefs in support of the Petitioner were filed by the Cato Institute (Ilya Shapiro), American TargetAdvertising, Inc. and 57 Nonprofit and Other Organizations (Mark Fitzgibbons), Institute for Justice (Diana K. Simpson), Pacific Legal Foundation (Timothy Sandefur), Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence (John. C. Eastman), The Philanthropy Roundtable (Allyson N. Ho), and the States of Arizona, Michigan, and South Carolina (John R. Lopez, IV).
- George Will, “The Supreme Court’s opportunity to tackle sinister trends,” Washington Post, November 4, 2015 (urging review)
- Editorial, “Show Us Your Donors,” Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2015 (urging review)
- Lyle Denniston, “Group seeks privacy for donor list,” SCOTUSblog, May 15, 2015
- Edward Pettersson, “Koch Group Gets to Keep Donors Secret in California Lawsuit,” Bloomberg Business, February 17, 2015 (discussing District Court ruling by Judge Manuel Real in favor of Petitioners).