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Commentary By James Piereson

The New Assault on Privacy

Culture Philanthropy

A burgeoning campaign to deter donors.

On February 27, the Supreme Court turned down an appeal in a case from Colorado that would have decided whether nonprofit organizations that run issue advertisements during election campaigns can be compelled to disclose the names and addresses of their donors. This was one of several cases making their way through state and federal courts that address the issue of donor privacy and the degree to which federal and state governments can use disclosure requirements to regulate political speech. This is the free speech and privacy issue of the hour, one that the Supreme Court has allowed to continue simmering.

“Claims that "dark money" is corrupting our elections are much exaggerated.”

In the Colorado case, the Independence Institute, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, proposed to run a series of “issue advertisements" during the 2014 Senate campaign urging the state's two senators to support a federal bill to reform guidelines for criminal sentences. The proposed ads addressed only this narrow issue and did not endorse or oppose any candidate for election. Nevertheless, under the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act of 2002, the organization would have been required to make public its list of donors because the ads, though they were focused narrowly on issues, mentioned the name of a senator on the ballot within 60 days of the election. A federal district court ruled against the Independence Institute and upheld the donor-disclosure provisions of McCain-Feingold as they apply to nonprofit groups. The Supreme Court affirmed that decision last week, thereby creating an environment in which donors, concerned with retaliation, may be reluctant to support issue-oriented campaigns.

A parallel case is also working its way through the courts, testing whether California can require not-for-profit organizations to disclose their donor lists as a condition....

Read the entire piece here at The Weekly Standard


James Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Ms. Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

This piece originally appeared in The Weekly Standard