The Pacific Research Institute (PRI) today applauded the U.S Supreme Court’s decision upholding the First Amendment rights of all Americans to make donations to the charities they support. The Court struck down as facially unconstitutional the California Attorney General’s compelled disclosure of major donor’s identities—thereby exposing them to harassment.
“Cancel culture has led to a rise in those exercising their First Amendment rights being harassed over their support of controversial ideas,” said Sally Pipes, PRI President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy. “Today’s decision upholds the liberties guaranteed to Californians to support organizations like PRI that develop policy solutions without fear of being doxed or harassed.”
The case, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, challenged the efforts of the California Attorney General’s Office – initiated by former Attorney General and current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris – to force the disclosure of the identities of those who donate to 501(c)(3) charities. PRI has been closely involved in fighting this action since it was first initiated over six years ago.
PRI filed an amicus brief in the case with Protect the 1st, arguing that permitting the California Attorney General’s Office to require the disclosure of the identity of donors to public charities would put donors at risk of being harassed. The brief reads, in part:
At any given time, some groups will be out of favor with the current regime, and the temptation to abuse government power will always exist. Such abuses can be aimed at persons who support opponents, opposing viewpoints, or even nominally friendly rivals….The long roster of such abuses of power in the history of American government teaches that it is not unreasonable paranoia but constitutional prudence that should lead us to avoid, wherever possible, giving those in power weapons with which to intimidate or target those who disagree with them.
PRI joined organizations across the political spectrum in arguing that efforts of the California Attorney General’s Office should be ruled unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s decision in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), which rejected the state of Alabama’s attempt to collect the identities of NAACP supporters in the height of the Jim Crow era.
A U.S. District Court based in California ruled that Americans for Prosperity Foundation and its donors were entitled to First Amendment protections, but the ruling was overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals before being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Erik Jaffe of Schaerr/Jaffe LLP filed an amicus brief on behalf of PRI and Protect the 1st.