Many media experts will reflexively view the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to overturn California’s rule requiring nonprofit groups to disclose their top donors as a victory for conservatives like Charles Koch. While the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) group associated with Koch has been the main plaintiff to challenge the law, this 6-3 decision by the judges should also be seen as a loss for Vice President Harris.
It was Harris, the former California attorney general, who first interpreted state charity regulations to require 501 (c) (3) nonprofits to report all larger donations. to $ 5,000 via the IRS Schedule B donor list.
On the surface, Harris was simply guarding against nonprofit breaches of law, personal transactions, or conflicts of interest. But his rule was like asking everyone to send him their checking account statements, just in case someone was laundering money. As a law enforcement officer, she had the right to subpoena IRS files, but hers appeared to be a fishing expedition in search of so-called black money. , the supposedly nefarious influence machine of the right.
The Supreme Court ruling shouldn’t be associated with Harris just because she made the original requirement on nonprofits. She was also the first to strictly enforce the law and she persisted in defending it even after a first court ruling against her.
After more than a decade – during which California deemed AFP in compliance with state law, although the organization did not file a list of its top donors – Harris chose to reinterpret the law to mean that a filing with the IRS was not sufficient. When AFP refused to comply, fearing the personal information of conservative donors would be leaked, Harris doubled down. AFP therefore took the matter to court. A ruling in his favor by the federal district court did not deter Harris or his successors in the state attorney general’s office. The state won a 9th Circuit appeals court decision, but has now lost in the country’s highest court.
It is worth mentioning what Harris must have neglected in order to persist in defending his interpretation of California’s charitable law. She had to ignore a key precedent in the 1958 Supreme Court ruling that overturned Jim Crow of Alabama’s requirement that the NAACP disclose donor information. At the time, it was practically an invitation to lynching. Harris had to ignore the fact that the district court cited “threats, protests, boycotts, retaliation and harassment directed against those publicly associated with AFP.” She also had to play down the fact that ‘inadvertent’ disclosures of donor information had already taken place and that information leaks often occurred (see the recent disclosure of the tax returns of some of the businessmen. richest in America).
It’s hard to see Harris’s interpretation of California law as anything other than a partisan political piece that was unnecessary to his law enforcement role and potentially driven by Democratic hysteria about conservative black money – even though the political left relies on complex organizations to channel funds to its own causes.
Thus, the Supreme Court ruling appears to be a defeat for Harris, as well as for his successor, Xavier BecerraXavier Becerra New COVID-19 infections peak in six months Federal contractor raises allegations of sexual misconduct at Fort Bliss facility: report Overnight health care: CDC advises vaccinees to wear masks in facilities high risk areas | Biden administrator considers vaccine tenure for federal workers PLUS, who is now the Federal Secretary for Health and Social Services. Both were prepared to ignore the potentially chilling effect they imposed on the right to free speech of anyone supporting a controversial group, the disclosure of which donors might fear.
Let’s stop judging the public positions of an organization based on who might be its private supporters. This is as true for the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported Koch’s position in this case, as it is for AFP. Both deserve to have their arguments judged on the merits, and not on the basis of their sources of money.
Howard Husock is an adjunct research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.