Supreme Court rules California may not force Koch-backed charity to reveal its big donors

Charles Koch in 2019. (Associated Press).The Supreme Court extended privacy rights to conservative charities raising money in California on Thursday, ruling that they might not have to disclose their major donors to the California attorney-general.A 6-3 vote by the justices ruled that the forced disclosures were in violation of the 1st Amendment's freedom to association. The court stated that this is especially true because conservative groups and their donors are afraid of being harassed by left-leaning opposition.The court referenced a landmark civil rights ruling in its decision. The 1958 ruling by the NAACP's high court prevented it from disclosing its members to Alabama. This was because civil rights activists and Black people were subject to threats, intimidation, and violence. In 1958, the justices ruled that the 1st Amendment did not only protect freedom of speech, but also freedom to associate with others for the support of political causes.Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stated that "compelled disclosures" are suspect under the 1st Amendment. He also stated that California had not demonstrated it required the information in order to investigate fraud.California has a dragnet for sensitive donor data from tens to thousands of charities every year, even though it will only become relevant in a small number cases involving filed complaints," he stated in Americans for Prosperity Foundation in Americans for Prosperity Foundation [California Atty.]. Gen. Rob] Bonta.The court's conservatives ruled in favor of an anonymous 1st Amendment right. They also downplayed state's need for fraud prevention. In a separate decision on voting rights about Arizona, conservatives sided against the state, stating that the state's need to prevent fraud in elections was a valid reason to impose new restrictions like the criminal ban on friends or neighbors delivering ballots at the post office.Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in dissenting in the Koch case noted that California controls one-fourth the nation's charitable assets.Continue the storyShe wrote that "Today's decision discards decades worth of 1st Amendment Jurisprudence, recognizing that reporting and disclosure requirements don't directly burden associational right,"She called the decision extreme and unbalanced. She stated that it was wrong for the court not to apply the same scrutiny to the case as when NAACP members in Jim Crow South didn't want to reveal their membership "for fear of reprisals" to "donors only to happy to publish their names on the websites and walls supporting these organizations." Elena Kagan and Stephen G. Breyer, Justices, joined the disapproval.This new ruling invalidates an anti-fraud policy, which was first implemented under the former California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris is now vice president.Federal law requires that charities seeking tax-deductible donations submit an annual list listing their major contributors. The confidential Schedule B form is kept secret. California authorities insist that 120,000 charities raising money in California submit a copy their Schedule B.Although the list of donors isn't made public, state prosecutors stated that it was useful in detecting and investigating frauds. It could be a concern if a tax-exempt charity spends an unusual amount through businesses owned or controlled by one of its donors.Two prominent conservative groups refused and sued Harris and state. These are the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Americans for Prosperity, both co-founded Charles and David Koch. They are a sister organization to its political arm Americans for Prosperity. The Thomas More Law Center is based in Michigan and claims its mission is "preserve America's Judeo-Christian heritage." It was funded by Tom Monaghan (the founder of Domino's Pizza).U.S. District Judge Manuel Real, Los Angeles, ruled in favor of the charities in 2016. He stated that disclosures could "chill" their exercise of the "1st Amendment freedoms to talk anonymously and engage in expressive association."The disclosure rule was upheld by a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit. They stated that it would only have a "modest impact on contributions" but furthered the "important state interest in policing charity fraud."Both groups appealed to the Supreme Court last year. The Supreme Court agreed in January that they would decide them all together.This story first appeared in Los Angeles Times.