Supreme Court Denies Hearing In Donor List Case

May 19, 2015       Patrick Sullivan      

The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to hear an appeal in the case of The Center for Competitive Politics where the identities of donors would be revealed to state officials in California.

CCP sought an injunction from Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy against revealing its list of donors to California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Justice Kennedy denied the request on Monday, according to court documents. The request was denied “without prejudice,” so CCP will be able to file again. Justice Kennedy did not specify a reason for the denial.

“We intend to appeal this case to the Supreme Court. We will continue to monitor developments while the full Court considers our petition,” said David Keating, CCP’s president. “If Attorney General Harris attempts to take any action against the Center, we will renew our efforts to obtain an injunction.” Harris’s office declined to comment.

The State of California requires all organizations seeking to solicit funds in the state to register with its Registry of Charitable Trusts. Organizations must submit their federal Form 990. The Internal Revenue Service redacts the names of donors on Schedule B, but Harris has required organizations submit unredacted versions, arguing that they promote transparency and prevent fraud. The names would not be made public, only used by the Attorney General’s office.

The Alexandria, Va.-based CCP sued Harris in March 2014, arguing that disclosing the names of donors would produce a chilling effect on the donors’ First Amendment rights of free association if the donors’ names were revealed due to lax security practices in the AG’s office. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California sided with Harris.

CCP then filed a preliminary injunction against revealing its donors with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th District. The court denied the injunction request on May 1. According to the 9th Court’s opinion, disclosure of donors’ names might but not necessarily will be “injurious to the center and its supporters’ exercise of First Amendment rights to freedom of association.” The opinion also stated that CCP’s argument that the Attorney General’s privacy protections are inadequate does not “constitute evidence to support their claim that disclosing donors to the attorney general for confidential use would chill donors’ participation.”