California Attorney General Agrees To Follow U.S. Supreme Court Ruling On Donor Privacy

California Attorney General Rob Bonta

(The Center Square) – After years of legal battles, the California Attorney General’s Office changed its policy that required nonprofits to share their donors’ information with the state. The policy reversal came after a landmark decision by the U. S. Supreme Court on July 1, which held that California’s requirement was unconstitutional.

The legal battles began after the California Attorney General’s Office first instituted a policy in 2010 demanding that all nonprofits that fund-raise in the state provide major donors’ information every year to the state.

Michigan-based nonprofit Thomas More Law Center chose not to comply and in 2015 received an ultimatum from then California Attorney General Kamala Harris: comply with the policy in 30 days or lose the right to solicit donations in California, and have its officers and tax preparers be held personally liable for any penalties TMLC incurred.

TMLC sued, and initially won in U.S. District Court. It lost on appeal at the Ninth Circuit and in 2019, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.

After nonprofits began complying with California’s regulation, their donor information, which was supposed to be kept confidential, was made publicly available on the internet, Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented TMLC in court, pointed out in its brief and oral arguments. Hackers uploaded thousands of confidential documents online, where they were easily discovered. TMLC supporters, employees and clients experienced intimidation, death threats, hate mail and boycotts, attorneys said. If California were to leak nonprofits’ donor’s information, either accidentally or intentionally, ADF argued, these donors could be in danger.

More than 40 organizations across a wide ideological spectrum filed briefs with the court opposing the California policy.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, heard oral arguments in April 2021 and published its ruling three months later.

In the 6-3 decision, the high court ruled that California’s “dragnet for sensitive donor information from tens of thousands of charities each year” violates the First Amendment. It held that freedom of association is protected by the Constitution, ensuring that Americans may donate to charities without fear of harassment.

Its ruling also upheld a 60-year-old precedent in NAACP v. Alabama, in which the Supreme Court had rebuked Alabama for demanding that the NAACP hand over its membership lists – exposing their members to harassment and violence.

The Attorney General’s Charities homepage now states, “Effective July 1, 2021, the Registry of Charitable Trusts will no longer require the filing of Schedule B to the IRS Form 990 as part of the registration and annual reporting requirements.”

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Bruce Boyer, candidate for Ventura County Sheriff

SCOTUS gets that one right. This is exciting as it prepares the way for more privacy rulings. So if one donates to a charity, their is privacy yes great. But what if it is a political campaign? Speech is speech privacy is privacy and the privacy of the voting booth and voting in privacy is long enshrined. This helps confirm the ‘campaign disclosure laws” violate the right of free speech even more than that of charitable contributions. This candidate does not and will not disclose any donor info, period. If they want to come after me, bring it on. With the new Trump tax cuts few people need itemized deductions and there are PACs as well to donate to.

William Hicks

The people that required this information are not rubes that don’t have an understanding of Law and The Constitution. They make these decisions based on how it benefits their political benefit, not how it meets the requirements of Constitutional Law. SHAME ON THEM that it had to go to the Supreme Court while in the meantime peoples lives were in jeopardy.

Bruce Boyer, candidate for Ventura County Sheriff

Spot
on sir!

William Hicks

Don’t call me sir. I was a Sergeant. You can call me by my familiar name……Sergeant Bill.
I hope you understand that that was the going joke while on my tour in Vietnam and I mean it in a joking manner.