Many media pundits will reflexively view the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down the California rule mandating that nonprofit groups disclose their top donors as a victory for conservatives such as Charles Koch. While the Koch-associated group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) served as the lead plaintiff to challenge the law, this 6-3 ruling by the justices should also be viewed as a loss for Vice President Kamala Harris.

It was Harris, the former California attorney general, who first interpreted the state’s regulations on charities to mandate that nonprofit (501c3) organizations report all gifts greater than $5,000 via the IRS Schedule B donor list.

Load Error

Ostensibly, Harris was simply guarding against nonprofit lawbreaking, self-dealing, or conflicts of interest. But her rule was the equivalent of asking everyone to send her their checking account statements, just in case someone was laundering money. As a law enforcement officer, she had the right to subpoena IRS records, but it hers appeared to be a fishing expedition in search of so-called “dark money,” the allegedly nefarious influence-machine of the right.

The Supreme Court’s ruling shouldn’t be associated with Harris just because she issued the original requirement on nonprofits. She also was the first to strictly enforce the law, and she persisted in defending it even after an initial court ruling against it.

After more than a decade – in which California deemed AFP to be in compliance with state law, despite the organization not filing the list of its major donors – Harris chose to reinterpret the law to mean that an IRS filing was not sufficient. When AFP declined to comply, fearful that the personal information of conservative donors would be disclosed, Harris doubled down. So AFP went to court. A ruling in its favor by the federal district court did not deter Harris or her successors in the state Attorney General’s Office. The state won a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, but now has lost in the nation’s highest court.

It’s worth mentioning what Harris had to overlook in order to persist in defending her interpretation of California’s charity law. She had to ignore a key precedent from the 1958 Supreme Court ruling that overturned Alabama’s Jim Crow requirement that the NAACP disclose donor information. At the time, this was practically an invitation to lynching. Harris had to overlook the fact that the District Court cited “threats, protests, boycotts, reprisals and harassment directed at those individuals publicly associated with AFP.” She also had to minimize the fact that “inadvertent” disclosures of donor information already had occurred, and that information leaks often occur (see the recent disclosure of the tax returns of some of America’s wealthiest businessmen).

It’s hard to see Harris’s interpretation of the California law as anything more than a partisan political play that was unnecessary to her role in law enforcement and potentially motivated by the Democratic hysteria about conservative “dark money” – even as the political left relies on complex organizations to funnel funds to its own causes.

So, the Supreme Court ruling appears to be a defeat for Harris, as well as for her successor, Xavier Becerra, who’s now the federal Health and Human Services secretary. Both were willing to ignore the potentially chilling effect they imposed on the free-speech rights of anyone supporting a controversial group, whose donors might fear disclosure.

Let’s stop judging an organization’s public positions based on who their private supporters might be. That’s as true for the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the Koch position in the case, as it is for AFP. Both deserve to have their arguments judged on the merits, not based on the sources of their money.

18 thoughts on “Supreme Court Donor Ruling a Defeat for Kamala Harris?”
  1. Excellent pieces. Keep writing such kind of information on your blog.
    Im really impressed by your blog.
    Hey there, You have performed a fantastic job.

    I’ll certainly digg it and individually suggest
    to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this web site.

  2. Hi there I am so delighted I found your web site, I really found
    you by mistake, while I was researching on Digg for something else,
    Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a marvelous post and a all round interesting
    blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time
    to go through it all at the moment but I
    have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so
    when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please
    do keep up the excellent b.

  3. Everything said made a lot of sense. But, think about this, what if you typed a catchier title? I am not suggesting your content is not solid, but suppose you added a title that grabbed folk’s attention? I mean BLOG_TITLE is a little vanilla. You could look at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write post headlines to get people to open the links. You might add a video or a picture or two to get readers interested about what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it could bring your posts a little livelier.|

  4. whoah this blog is magnificent i like reading your articles. Stay up the good work! You already know, many individuals are looking round for this information, you could help them greatly. |

  5. It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you just shared this useful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.|

  6. I’m not sure where you’re getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic info I was looking for this info for my mission.|

  7. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any methods to help stop content from being ripped off? I’d certainly appreciate it.|

  8. Great beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog site? The account helped me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea|

  9. I have been exploring for a little for any high-quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of space . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this website. Reading this information So i’m happy to exhibit that I’ve an incredibly good uncanny feeling I found out just what I needed. I so much surely will make certain to do not overlook this web site and provides it a glance on a constant basis.|

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.