California's attorney general, the Democratic Party's Kamala Harris is doing her best to silence conservative speech. She is demanding the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), public-interest law firm specializing in protecting the First Amendment's guarantee of free political speech, to disclose its principal donors to the state, a move that is putting a chill down the spines of 501(C)(3) and 501(C)(4) organizations that operate in the state. As the AG Harris oversees licensing of charities and other nonprofits so her threat is real.
Charities list all the donors on their federal tax returns (Form 990), however they redact the lists when they make them public or submit them to the states. When I discovered, for example, that George Soros was donating to J Street it was only because the anti-Israel group forgot to black out the donor list when they submitted it to Foundation Finder.
The Center for Competitive Politics, a Virginia nonprofit registered with the California Attorney General, challenged the Attorney General’s unredacted Schedule B filing requirement. On May 1, 2015, in Center for Competitive Politics v. Harris, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the California regulation allowing the California Attorney General to request such information.
On August 13th American Target Advertising (ATA), a company specializing in promoting conservative causes along with 57 nonprofit and other organizations filed a friend-of-the court brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the appeal of the case officially called Center for Competitive Politics v. Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California.
Note: One of those 57 organizations is the Media Research Center an organization that employs me as a freelance blogger. I was unaware of their participation until I began researching this post. As with everything put up on this site, this post is my opinion, it has not been shared with anyone before it was posted and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the folks at MRC.
The brief refers to the 1957 case of NAACP v. Alabama where the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Alabama could not require the NAACP to reveal to the State's Attorney General the names and addresses of all the NAACP's members and agents in the state. "The court held that a compelled disclosure of the NAACP's membership lists would have the effect of suppressing legal association among the group's members. Nothing short of an "overriding valid interest of the State," something not present in this case, was needed to justify Alabama's actions."
Per a press release issued by ATA:
This is the NAACP v. Alabama of the 21st Century," said ATA President of Corporate Affairs Mark Fitzgibbons, who added, "Using methods more comprehensive and arbitrary than the Alabama attorney general and other politicians in the 1950s who sought to destroy the civil rights movement by intimidating and silencing activists and their organizations, Ms. Harris and many politicos want to use the power of government to intimidate or even put their grassroots critics out of business. In her unlawful quest, Harris is also violating privacy and association rights of donors to all charities essential for Toquevillian, non-governmental democracy in American society."A copy of the brief can be viewed here. But when you sift through all the lawyer talk it has three main points
The National Organization for Marriage, whose donor names were leaked by the IRS to hostile blogs, and nationally recognized conservative nonprofit organizations such as Media Research Center, Concerned Women for America, Citizens United, Family Research Council, Faith & Freedom Coalition, the Weyrich Lunch, and Leadership Institute are among the 58 organizations on the brief.
- AG Harris's demands that nonprofit organizations disclose to her their donor names and addresses on an IRS schedule violate federal law protecting confidential tax return information, violate the landmark 1958 decision NAACP v. Alabama protecting freedom of association, and violate privacy rights;
- Harris's demands are an "extortionate unconstitutional condition" to obtain a permit to engage in constitutionally protected rights, and interfere with important privacy rights at the core of American society.
- The California statute delegating unbridled discretion to AG Harris to determine what registrants must file is unconstitutional on its face for First Amendment reasons, and is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power.