The Supreme Court May Set an Important Donor-Privacy Precedent

The Supreme Court May Set an Important Donor-Privacy Precedent

Jan 11, 2021 Debi Ghate

As I previously reported, we’ve been expecting news that the U.S. Supreme Court would agree to hear the case known as Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra. And on Friday, January 8, the high court agreed to review this case, which is exciting news for anyone interested in protecting donor privacy. 

The case will be consolidated with another: Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra. Twenty-two amicus briefs have been filed in support of AFP et al.’s petition, including one from The Philanthropy Roundtable. 

The court will render a final decision about whether “California’s requirement that charitable organizations that fundraise in the State disclose to the state Attorney General’s office the identities of their substantial contributors violates the constitutional freedom of association.” 

The implications for protecting donor privacy across the country are astounding. If the court rules against the plaintiffs, this opens the door to the potential harassment and endangerment of donors when there is no compelling government interest in forcing disclosure. And there are many other reasons why donors may want to protect their identity when supporting charitable causes, as we explain here. This case should be of concern to all donors, whether they give in the millions or the hundreds. 

Many view California as the first state to push the boundaries of threats to philanthropic freedom. Whether it’s the forced disclosure of donor names or the slippery slope of mandating the composition of corporate boards, the Roundtable has a special focus on protecting the rights of all donors from encroachment by the state of California, knowing that what happens there may open the door to similar actions elsewhere. 

For regular updates from the Roundtable, sign up for our weekly newsletter, The Roundtable Rounduphere. And to hear more about what to expect in 2021 on issues of philanthropic freedom, don’t miss our webinar on January 14, “Defending the Freedom to Give in 2021.”