Public Citizen Statement on AFP v. Bonta
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta. The decision held that California regulations requiring charitable organizations to identify large donors to the state’s Attorney General violate the First Amendment and are unconstitutional across the board. Public Citizen’s friend-of-the-Court brief defending the law was cited in Justice Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion. Scott Nelson, attorney at Public Citizen Litigation group, issued the following statement:
“This morning’s decision by the Supreme Court to strike down California’s requirement that charities disclose identities of large donors to state regulators (but not to the public) is a blow to public oversight aimed at preventing financial fraud and abuse in the nonprofit sector. The Court’s majority applied a rigid requirement that disclosure requirements be ‘narrowly tailored’ even when they serve substantial interests and have little impact on the First Amendment rights of most organizations and their supporters. And it struck down the disclosure requirement across the board even though only a handful of organizations have claimed that disclosure would harm them or their contributors.
“Fortunately, the majority of the Justices rejected calls for the application of the strictest form of constitutional scrutiny to disclosure requirements and did not rule that disclosure must be the ‘least restrictive means’ of achieving the government’s objectives. They reaffirmed decisions that have upheld disclosure in other contexts, including disclosure of political campaign contributions. Those disclosure requirements remain constitutional, though their opponents will undoubtedly invoke today’s decision in mounting new attacks on them. But the Court’s acceptance of dark money in the charitable sector should not serve as a basis for expanding its sway in the political arena.”