It’s not often that a court case brought by Koch-supported Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Catholic Thomas More Law Center can garner support from the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Human Rights Campaign, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Southern Poverty Law Center, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
But that is exactly what happened in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, a case pending at the U.S. Supreme Court after being argued on April 26. The case involves a challenge to a California law that would require all nonprofits operating in the state to disclose to California the names of their top donors listed on their confidential IRS Form 990 Schedule B.
Nearly 300 diverse groups filed or signed onto “friend-of-the-court” briefs opposing California’s donor disclosure law and supporting privacy rights. These groups represent a range of issues from human rights, religious liberties, racial justice, and LGBT preferences to free speech, animal welfare, international aid, and tax reform, among others.
Plaintiffs in the case cited California’s improper posting of donor records as a prime example of the law’s grave threat to advocacy organizations. Despite assurances of confidentiality, California improperly posted more than 1,800 confidential Schedule B forms, including for Planned Parenthood’s California affiliate for fiscal year 2009, listing the names and addresses of hundreds of donors on a public website.
Planned Parenthood emailed the office of then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris, asking for help “in getting [the Schedule B] information removed immediately from the publicly accessible database.” The email explained: “the unintended public availability of this information is potentially damaging to both [Planned Parenthood] and its donors, and the longer it remains available, the greater the risk it poses.”
Even though Planned Parenthood was directly implicated in this litigation and is the quintessential example how donor disclosure laws can have a chilling effect on donors, you may be surprised to learn that Planned Parenthood did not join the coalition of diverse groups petitioning the Supreme Court on the issue (in fact, the only abortion advocacy group represented was a local North Carolina affiliate of
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