Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta that the California Attorney General’s demands for donor information violate the First Amendment freedom of association and are not narrowly tailored to California’s interest in policing charitable fraud. Philanthropy Roundtable applauds the court for protecting our nation’s long-standing tradition of donor privacy, which enables America’s vibrant and free charitable culture.
“The Supreme Court’s decision protects philanthropic freedom and strengthens the ability of all Americans to give to causes they believe in without fear of retaliation,” said Philanthropy Roundtable CEO Elise Westhoff. “California’s actions violated Americans’ constitutional rights as well as the rights of donors who wish to keep their charitable giving private for a wide range of good and valid reasons, including religious and moral traditions. We applaud the court for protecting the flourishing philanthropic spirit that benefits so many people and communities across the country.”
As America’s leading network of charitable donors committed to advancing the values of liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility, the Philanthropy Roundtable supported AFPF in amicus briefs.
Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion of the court stated, “California’s disclosure requirement imposes a widespread burden on donors’ associational rights, and this burden cannot be justified on the ground that the regime is narrowly tailored to investigating charitable wrongdoing, or that the state’s interest in administrative convenience is sufficiently important.”
The majority’s reasoning also noted that the gravity of the privacy concerns was underscored by amici curiae supporting AFPF. It echoed the arguments made in the Roundtable’s March 2021 amicus brief, in which we outlined how California’s attempt to compel disclosure of the identities of those who donate to tax-exempt nonprofits “abridges philanthropic freedom, chills charitable giving, weakens the ability of individual donors and nonprofit organizations to carry out their goals and missions, and, therefore, abridges their freedoms of speech, religion and association under the First and 14th Amendments.”
Today’s ruling will have implications for efforts aimed at requiring donor disclosure for charitable organizations. As stated by the court, “Each governmental demand for disclosure brings with it an additional risk of chill.” In 2021 alone, 16 states considered measures requiring donor disclosure for 501(c)(3) organizations, and 10 states have passed donor privacy protections in recent years.
Read the amicus brief here. Alexander L. Reid of Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius LLP is counsel for the amicus brief.
About Philanthropy Roundtable: Philanthropy Roundtable is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant American philanthropic movement that strengthens our free society. To achieve this vision, the Philanthropy Roundtable pursues a mission to foster excellence in philanthropy, protect philanthropic freedom and help donors advance liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility. Visit www.philanthropyroundtable.org for more information.