Supreme Court rules against California in challenge to state’s donor disclosure rule

Among the last decisions of the current U.S. Supreme Court term was a ruling that represents a major loss for Vice President Kamala Harris.

In its majority opinion, the justices determined that California cannot force nonprofit organizations to disclose their major donors, Breitbart reported, providing a final verdict on a fierce political debate dating back to when Harris served as the state’s attorney general.

“Dramatic mismatch”

Two conservative groups — the Thomas More Law Center and Americans For Prosperity Foundation — have been challenging California’s disclosure requirement since it was implemented in 2010. The case resolved by the Supreme Court this week involves a challenge to the mandate that tax-exempt charities provide the state with their Schedule B tas forms listing top donors.

Plaintiffs in the case reportedly argued that the rule violates the First Amendment and makes donors vulnerable to harassment. The Americans For Prosperity Foundation also cited an incident in which 2,000 of its Schedule B forms were posted online by the state.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts determined that the requirement infringes on the freedom of association and is not “narrowly tailored” to California’s avowed interest in preventing fraud.

The state rule required thousands of organizations to disclose their donors upfront, though Schedule B forms are rarely used to investigate fraud. That struck Roberts as a “dramatic mismatch” between the government’s interests its methods of collecting information.

“Protected association furthers a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends and is especially important in preserving political and cultural diversity and in shielding dissident expression from suppression by the majority,” the chief justice said.

“The prime objective”

State officials also have other ways of obtaining Schedule B information, Roberts noted, concluding that “the State’s interest in amassing sensitive information for its own convenience is weak.”

While the state attorney general’s office “may well prefer to have every charity’s information close at hand, just in case,” the Supreme Court decision found that “the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency.”

A district court sided with the conservative groups, but that ruling was subsequently reversed on appeal.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were in full agreement with Roberts while fellow conservatives Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas agreed in part.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the dissenting liberal justices, insisting that the plaintiffs failed to prove a First Amendment burden and that the ruling sets a bad precedent for transparency surrounding money in politics, according to Reuters.

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