Should political nonprofits be compelled to reveal the names of their anonymous donors?
That’s the question at stake in an ongoing legal battle between California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a political nonprofit backed by the conservative Koch brothers.
Claiming it “chills the exercise of [AFPF]’s 1st Amendment freedoms to speak anonymously and to engage in expressive association,” U.S. District Judge Manuel Real ruled last week that the AFPF can ignore demands from Harris’ office to turn over the names and addresses of donors who have given more than $5,000. Now the Attorney General says she’ll appeal, arguing that California law requires charities to submit donor information.
As a foundation, AFPF is more restricted in how it spends money in politics than its sister organization, American for Prosperity, which has supported many conservative causes in state and national politics.
They argue that releasing their donors’ information would make them fear for their safety if their identities were publicly revealed. But the Attorney General’s office maintains that the donor documents would help investigators track unfair business practices by nonprofits. The case is being closely watched for the broader implications its outcome could have on money in politics.
Derek Shaffer, an attorney for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation
Kathay Feng, executive director of nonprofit advocacy group California Common Cause