Celebrating the One-Year Anniversary of AFPF v. Bonta

July 1, 2022 | PUFP Staff

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s strong pro-privacy decision in Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) v. Bonta. In one of the most important donor privacy cases in over 60 years, the court affirmed that Americans should have the ability to exercise their First Amendment rights privately.

In this case, AFPF challenged a California requirement that charities must report a list of their donors to the state as a pre-condition for lawfully soliciting contributions in the state. AFPF and the Thomas More Law Center, nonprofits operating as 501(c)(3) organizations, argued this was a violation of the First Amendment rights of their donors.

Chief Justice Roberts explained in the decision: “We are left to conclude that the Attorney General’s disclosure requirement imposes a widespread burden on donors’ associational rights. And this burden cannot be justified on the ground that the regime is narrowly tailored to investigating charitable wrongdoing…”

The Court’s holding was supported by nearly 300 groups that individually promote a diverse array of causes supported by citizens with beliefs along the political spectrum. As the majority explained, “The gravity of the privacy concerns in this context is further underscored by the filings of hundreds of organizations as amici curiae in support of the petitioners. Far from representing uniquely sensitive causes, these organizations span the ideological spectrum, and indeed the full range of human endeavors: from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Proposition 8 Legal Defense Fund; from the Council on American-Islamic Relations to the Zionist Organization of America; from Feeding America—Eastern Wisconsin to PBS Reno…”

Despite this ruling, and previous Supreme Court decisions affirming that donor privacy is protected by the First Amendment, politicians and anti-privacy activists across the country continue to push for laws forcing nonprofit organizations to report the names and home addresses of their supporters to the government. As “cancel culture” shows no signs of abating, this is a recipe for disaster. Americans should not have their livelihoods threatened for supporting causes they care about.

People United for Privacy Foundation continues to advocate for the ability of individuals to express and promote their viewpoints through associational affiliations without personally exposing themselves to a political firestorm or governmental retaliation. The decision in AFPF v. Bonta upheld those rights, and we encourage lawmakers to continue working to protect the privacy of all nonprofit supporters.