Americans for Prosperity Foundation
Nos. 19-251, 19-255
Supreme Court of the United States
On writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
California’s donor disclosure law threatens freedom of association.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Independent Women’s Law Center (IWLC) filed an amicus brief on Monday in the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to protect the right of freedom of association for non-profits that would be required to turn over private information about their donors according to California’s donor disclosure law.
In the landmark 1958 case of NAACP v. Alabama, the court unanimously held that the state may not compel non-profits to hand over their membership lists, as disclosure could expose members “to economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility.” IWLC supports the petitioner’s claim that government demands for private information about donors to charitable causes also threatens the First Amendment right of freedom of association.
This case involves California’s policy requiring charitable organizations that raise money in the state to turn over private information about major donors (including those who reside outside of California). Two non-profit organizations, Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Thomas More Law Center, refused to comply with the demand and took then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris to court. The trial judge agreed that the California policy violates the First Amendment, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.
In its brief, IWLC argues that the California policy discourages female philanthropists from giving to organizations that take a stand on controversial policy issues and that it discourages philanthropic gifts to women’s organizations and causes.
“Throughout our history, women have contributed anonymously to important social movements, including the suffragist and abolitionist movements,” Patrice Onwuka, director of the Center for Economic Opportunity at Independent Women’s Forum. “The ability to donate and to participate anonymously was critical to these women, as it has been to all donors who fear retaliation, wish to avoid unwanted publicity, or seek to give in ways that conform to the tenets of their faith.”
Jennifer C. Braceras, director of Independent Women’s Law Center, added, “Under California’s current disclosure regime, those who wish to anonymously donate to any charity registered in the state face a difficult choice: stop contributing to the charity or risk exposure. That choice will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on both female donors and on donations to women’s causes.”
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