The Supreme Court Defends Conservative Donor Confidentiality.
Attacks on the Pro-Life movement do not always come from the most obvious sources.
One way that opponents of the Pro-Life cause have sought to cripple our efforts is through rules and legislation that would require nonprofit organizations to make public the personal information of their donors.
Under the guise of transparency and accountability, these requirements seek to put a target on the backs of regular citizens who support the cause of Life and liberty. Such requirements would open Pro-Lifers up to public harassment and retaliation for simply donating to organizations that may be deemed “controversial” in today’s political climate.
Texas Right to Life has continuously and successfully fought off these efforts to go after our supporters. Recently, two conservative nonprofit organizations in California have won their own victory over a similar attempt by the California attorney general’s office.
In a 6-3 ruling in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) soundly rejected California’s insidious attempt to intimidate citizens from donating to conservative and Pro-Life nonprofits.
In 2001, the state of California began requiring nonprofits to file a list of their major donors with the state government. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Thomas More Legal Center filed a lawsuit after they refused to submit a list of their donors’ personal information to the California attorney general.
Kamala Harris, attorney general of California at the time and one of the architects of the initiative, along with current Biden Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra, retaliated by threatening to suspend these nonprofits’ tax-exempt registrations and punish them with fines if they refused to comply. Both organizations then sought relief and protection for their First Amendment rights by filing suit in federal court.
Although California was specifically targeting conservative nonprofits, the effort affected nonprofits of all political dogmas as well as those with none at all. From PETA and the ACLU to Gun Owners of America and Students for Life of America, nonprofits united in opposition to the egregious overreaches of Harris, Becerra, and the California government. Rarely have the actions of public officials unified such an ideologically diverse group.
Thankfully, SCOTUS’s conservative justices sided with the nonprofit organizations, issuing a ruling invalidating California’s requirement that nonprofits must disclose their donors to the politically motivated office of the attorney general.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, concluded, “when it comes to the freedom of association, the protections of the First Amendment are triggered not only by actual restrictions on an individual’s ability to join with others to further shared goals. The risk of a chilling effect on association is enough, ‘because First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive.’”
Chief Justice Roberts’ conclusion was directed at the liberals’ dissent, which suggested that the California law does not transgress the First Amendment because the disclosure of donors is not publicized. Such a contention would require confidence that California would maintain donor confidentiality. As Chief Justice Roberts rebutted, “[California’s] assurances of confidentiality are not worth much.”
That government officials would harass non-profits to obtain donor information is alarming. That the two principal officials who engaged in this harassment now work in the highest levels of the American government is dystopian.
Time and again, Harris and Becerra have demonstrated hostility to the Pro-Life movement and an eagerness to leverage their power in order to threaten our existence. While SCOTUS has so far blocked some of their more authoritarian aspirations, their prominence in the Biden Administration merits continuing caution. Failures before SCOTUS have not yet cooled their despotic appetite.
This threat to conservative donors is not isolated to California and the Biden Administration, nor is it confined to the left. Both Democrats and Republicans within the Texas Legislature have historically targeted nonprofits’ freedom of speech and threatened their donors’ confidentiality. Thankfully, because SCOTUS ruled California’s law is facially unconstitutional, there is now little question similar laws elsewhere will meet the same fate.
The Supreme Court’s ruling represented a rebuke of Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra. The ruling further serves as a warning to other State Legislatures, including ours: The First Amendment shelters the confidentiality of donors, especially when they contribute to causes like the Pro-Life movement.