In the final decision of the Supreme Court before its summer break, Chief Justice John Roberts delivered a major ruling striking down the California law requiring the disclosure of donors for charities. The law attacked so-called “dark money” but the Court ruled that the state was curtailing free speech in a 6-3 decision.
The Court declared that California may not require charities soliciting contributions in the state to report the identities of their major donors. The Court has previously upheld disclosure requirements as in 2010 when it ruled in Doe v. Reed that people who sign petitions to put referendums on state ballots do not have a First Amendment to anonymity. This however is different. An array of groups opposed the state law from the ACLU to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
In the age of cancelling campaign, anonymity has become more important for many who do not want to face the ire of trolls and political activists. Anonymity can also be used by trolls who attacks others while hiding themselves from any accountability. Some blogs for example do not allow anonymity. We do on this blog because it is undeniably tied to free speech and associational rights — a major concern for a free speech blog.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court that “When it comes to the freedom of association, the protections of the First Amendment are triggered not only by actual restrictions on an individual’s ability to join with others to further shared goals. The risk of a chilling effect on association is enough.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing in dissent with Justices Kagan and Breyer, dismissed such First Amendment concerns and declared stridently that “Regulated entities who wish to avoid their obligations can do so by vaguely waving toward First Amendment ‘privacy concerns.’”
Here is the decision: Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta