Brief Filed Urging Supreme Court to Take Up Donor Disclosure Case

Brief Filed Urging Supreme Court to Take Up Donor Disclosure Case

The Independent Women's Forum, Philanthropy Roundtable, and People United for Privacy Foundation have filed an amicus curia brief urging the United States Supreme Court to take up a case challenging a California donor disclosure requirement.

The case, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra (9th Cir. 2018), concerns a tax-code provision implemented in 2013 under then-California attorney general Kamala Harris requiring nonprofits to disclose the names and addresses of donors who give at least $5,000 in a given year. In an earlier case, Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-funded advocacy group, and the Thomas More Law Center argued in district court that the collection of donor information violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association and won a permanent injunction against the disclosure requirement. The Ninth Circuit later vacated the injunction on the grounds that "the information is collected solely for nonpublic use, and the risk of inadvertent public disclosure is slight," with a three-judge panel entering a judgment in favor of the AG.

Citing the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), which held that Alabama could not compel the NAACP to reveal the names and addresses of its members because doing so would expose them "to economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility," the amicus brief calls on the court to review and reverse the Ninth Circuit's ruling and reaffirm that the right to donate to any organization anonymously is protected by the First Amendment.

"Many donors simply will not give unless they can keep their donations confidential — whether their anonymity is motivated by religious conviction, fear of retaliation, privacy concerns, avoiding unwanted solicitations, or some other reason," the brief states. "Forced disclosure of donor names to state governments undermines donors' reliance on anonymity and, in turn, threatens the ability of charitable organizations to rely on those donors."

"Many Americans who care deeply about public policy and the future of our country do not want to put their reputations, livelihoods, or safety at risk to support unpopular causes," said Jennifer C. Braceras, director of IWF's newly launched Independent Women's Law Center. "At IWF, we feel strongly that anonymous giving is an important vehicle for encouraging broad-based civic participation."