Philanthropy Roundtable Asks Supreme Court to Uphold Donor Privacy

The Philanthropy Roundtable argued in an amicus brief filed today before the U.S. Supreme Court in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Xavier Becerra (consolidated with Thomas More Law Center v. Xavier Becerra) that the California Attorney General’s demands for donor information violate the First Amendment freedoms of speech, religion, and association, the Fourteenth Amendment right of due process, and undermine the long-standing tradition of donor privacy

The Philanthropy Roundtable’s brief lays out how California’s actions to expose 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 Fourteenth Amendments.”  

“California’s actions cross the important boundary between government and civil society and infringe on the rights of donors who wish to keep their charitable giving private for a wide range of reasons, including religious and moral traditions,” said Philanthropy Roundtable CEO Elise Westhoff. “Americans from across the political and cultural spectrum have the right to give to causes they believe in without fear of retaliation. We hope the court strikes down these violations of constitutional rights and protects the flourishing philanthropic spirit that benefits so many people and communities across the country.” 

Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Thomas More Law Center donors have faced significant harassment, including death threats against themselves, their children and grandchildren due to both intentional posting of forms required by the state of California and to website vulnerabilities exposing about 350,000 documents. 

As America’s leading network of charitable donors working to foster excellence in philanthropy and protect philanthropic freedom, The Philanthropy Roundtable is uniquely positioned to file in this case. 

America’s thriving tradition of charitable giving flourishes under a legal framework that supports the robust and free civil society that exists separate from government.

California’s efforts to collect bulk personal information of donors to organizations that either operate in California or merely are open to donations from California citizens handcuffs the freedom to give without fear of retaliation. By infringing on the rights of donors who wish to keep their charitable giving and associations private, California’s policy runs counter to America’s vibrant and free charitable culture.  

The Supreme Court will hear the oral argument in AFPF v. Becerra this term; a decision is expected by June 1, 2021. Read the amicus brief here. Alexander L. Reid of Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius LLP is counsel for the amicus brief.

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