Ctr. for Competitive Politics v. Harris

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: 05-01-2015
  • Case #: 14-15978
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judge Tashima and Senior District Judge Quist
  • Full Text Opinion

Disclosure requirements by the Internal Revenue Service for a non-profit organization’s significant donors do not violate the First Amendment when the disclosures further a compelling governmental purpose, and present no actual burden to the organization or the donors.

When a non-profit or other similar organization wants to solicit tax deductible contributions in California, the organization must be registered with the state’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. Additionally, the organization must also file an annual report with the Attorney General’s Office, and must include the IRS Form 990 Schedule B. The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) further requires these organizations to “disclose the names and contributions of their ‘significant donors.’” The Center for Competitive Politics (“CCP”), a non-profit corporation, brought suit against Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of the State of California, claiming that CCP’s First Amendment right of free association was violated by disclosing its major donors’ names. Harris argued that there was a significant need for the disclosure requirement for law enforcement purposes. Harris stated that the disclosure requirement helped to determine which charitable organizations are engaged in lawful practices, and which organizations are not. CCP filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which the district court denied. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit found that CCP had not put forth any evidence that the donors would suffer an actual harm stemming from the disclosure. The panel further found that the Attorney General does have a compelling interest in enforcing the laws in California, which the disclosure requirement supports. The panel therefore concluded that CCP did not show that its claim would be successful on the merits, and that the donors would suffer irreparable harm if their names were disclosed, thus resulting in the panel affirming the district court’s denial of CCP’s preliminary injunction motion. AFFIRMED.

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