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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Center for Competitive Politics v. Harris

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a California state law requiring charities that raise money in the state to disclose the names of major contributors.

The Recorder explains:
Under California law, in order to solicit tax deductible contributions in that state, a non-profit corporation or other organization must be registered with the state’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. To maintain its registered status, the entity must file an annual report with the California Attorney General’s Office, and must include with that report a copy of IRS Form 990 Schedule B. Schedule B is a disclosure of the names and contributions of an entity’s “significant donors,” (donors who have contributed more than $5,000 in a single year).
After it registered in 2008, CCP [the Center for Competitive Politics] filed only redacted versions of Sched. B, omitting the names and addresses of its donors. In 2014, the Attorney General required CCP to submit an unredacted Sched. B.
CCP filed suit, alleging that the Attorney General’s requirement that CCP file an unredacted Sched. B amounted to a compelled disclosure of its supporters’ identities that infringed CCP’s and its supporters’ First Amendment rights to freedom of association.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
In 2014, [Attorney General Kamala] Harris ordered the center and other nonprofits to disclose the identities of donors who contributed more than $5,000 in a single year. The disclosures are not made public, but office staff examine them for potential suspicious activity.

The center argued the reporting requirement could make donors fearful of contributing because Harris’ system for preserving confidentiality was not fail-safe.

The court called that argument “speculative” and concluded the rule served a valid law enforcement purpose.

“The attorney general has a compelling interest in enforcing the laws of California,” wrote Judge Richard Paez, a Clinton appointee.

David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, said the group planned to appeal. “We think the decision is wrong and threatens 1st Amendment speech rights,” he said in a statement.