Donor privacy ruling defends against Oregon political harassment

By Taxpayers Association of Oregon

(Photo: Anarchist vandalize Portland Democrat Office, Jan 2021)

Donor privacy began during the 1950s when government tried to force the NAACP to disclose its donors so they could be harassed.   The US Supreme Court defended them then, and the US Supreme Court defends them again today in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta.  The NAACP along with other liberal liberal and conservative groups (ACLU, PBS Reno, CATO, US Chamber, etc.) supported donor privacy.

Privacy is an essential American ideal.  The Founding Fathers wrote under private names with the famous Federalist papers.  People vote using private ballots.

Furthermore, political harassment and political violence is a problem in Oregon.

  • A Portland sandwich shop owner who supported first responders, was condemned online by anarchist and soon thereafter had his business vandalized with bullet holes in his windows.
  • A business with a simple and common support-law-enforcement flag was criticized and had their contract with the City revoked.
  • Businesses in Oregon  share on how they receive a wave of government regulation harassment the very moment they start to get involved politically.
  • When a law professor ran against Ron Wyden in 2010, he received dozens of complaints from donors and prospective donors of intimidation and pressure.  Some even said Wyden staff members contacted them.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board applauds the decision:

“Americans who give money to any polarizing cause—say, gun rights, abortion or religious liberty—can sleep a little easier tonight thanks to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling on Thursday in defense of donor privacy. Given the threat lately of being publicly canceled for having the wrong views, it’s vital that the First Amendment protect anonymity.

For years California has told nonprofits they must hand over lists of their major donors, simply as a condition of doing business in the state. That’s unconstitutional, Chief Justice John Roberts writes for the majority in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta. “The upshot,” he says, “is that California casts a dragnet for sensitive donor information from tens of thousands of charities each year.”

California claimed it needs this data to police fraud. The Chief cites a lower court’s finding that there was not “a single, concrete instance” in which pre-collected donor details advanced the state’s enforcement efforts. Besides, California could get the same information on a case-by-case basis using subpoenas or audit letters. The state, the Chief says, wants to create a donor-data haystack “for its own convenience,” which isn’t a good enough reason.

California pledged to keep the information private, but it manifestly failed. During the litigation, thousands of pages of supposedly confidential documents were found publicly available online. At one point the state accidentally posted names and addresses for hundreds of donors to Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. This creates risks, the Chief Justice says, since the petitioners and their supporters “have been subjected to bomb threats, protests, stalking, and physical violence.”

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