On Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the conservative group Americans for Prosperity Foundation against California’a acting attorney general Matthew Rodriquez.The ruling stated the group acted well within their First Amendment rights to keep personal information of big money donors private in an effort to prevent undue targeting of conservatives from politicians and outside groups.
“The government may regulate in the First Amendment area only with narrow specificity, and compelled disclosure regimes are no exception,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.
The 6-3 vote further highlights the growing differences between the conservative and liberal justices on the bench.
Rotberts added: “When it comes to a person’s beliefs and associations, broad and sweeping state inquiries into these protected areas discourage citizens from exercising rights protected by the Constitution.”
The Court held that California’s disclosure requirement is invalid because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest.
Then-Attorney General of California Kamala Harris sent a letter to the conservative organization demanding the group sent Schedule B forms to disclose the identities of the group’s largest donors. A Schedule B is a highly confidential form that lists the names and addresses of a charity’s major donors—including those who live outside of California.
The AFP declined to send the forms, saying doing so would dissuade people from donating and would violate the First Amendment.
They further claimed they were not asking for Schedule B forms as a way to target people or publicly out individuals for supporting causes, according to court documents.
AFP, which is a conservative organization, highlighted an incident in which the state of California, with Kamala as DA released nearly 2000 Schedule B forms to the public, despite the state’s law of confidentiality.
AFP further argued the Attorney General’s Office had only used Schedule B forms five times for investigations. Instead, AFP said the AG should behave the way 47 other states do and subpoena non-profits for records during an investigation, according to court briefings.
A trial-court ruled in favor of AFP before the decision was reversed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.
In his opinion, Roberts emphasized the First Amendment’s role in protecting freedom of association and how the concept applies to AFP.
“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,” Roberts wrote.
He noted that compelled disclosure of affiliation could act as a restraint on freedom of association as effectively other forms of government action.
Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett joined Roberts in full, and Justice Alito and Justice Gorsuch joined in part. Alito and Justice Thomas filed concurring opinions. Justice Sotomayer wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan.
Author: Val Dohm