The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a potentially pivotal First Amendment case, and based on the trajectory of the discussion, there appears to be a good chance that the justices will upend a decision made by Kamala Harris when she served as the attorney general of California, as Law & Crime reports.
The case at issue, Americans for Prosperity v. Rodriguez, involves a requirement imposed by the State of California during the former AG’s tenure that nonprofit groups provide the government with the names of their financial donors. In 2015, Harris demanded the identities of those who had contributed to the Thomas More Law Center and Americans for Prosperity, two well-known conservative organizations.
Attorneys for those groups have argued that the disclosure of donors’ names and other identifying information could subject those individuals to threats, intimidation, and harassment and a requirement that they do so constituted a violation of their First Amendment right to free association.
Kathleen Sullivan, a lawyer representing Americans for Prosperity told participants on press call following oral arguments that she felt optimistic about the groups’ chances for success, citing the fact that the justices made multiple references to friend of the court briefs filed by organizations that are ideologically divergent from her client, but which advocated for the concept of donor anonymity. These groups included the NAACP, the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign, as PJ Media reported.
Bolstering Sullivan’s sense of impending success at the high court were a series of citations on the part of the justices to the precedent-setting ruling in NAACP v. Alabama, a segregation-era case in which a State of Alabama order requiring that the civil rights organization turn over its member list was struck down in an acknowledgment of the group’s right to privacy and that of its contributors.
If the Supreme Court does indeed find that California’s compelled production of nonprofit donor lists represents a constitutional violation, the outrage from liberals is sure to be significant. Late last month, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and 14 colleges in the upper chamber filed a friend of the court brief in the case arguing that the court challenge from Americans for Prosperity and the other named petitioners was “the latest move in a campaign by powerful special interests to cement their influence over government.”
In a statement regarding the filing, Whitehouse and the other signatories claimed that “siding with the wealthy special interests that propelled the case to the Court would permit dark money’s smothering influence over American democracy to grow,” and urged “the Court to uphold the limited nonprofit disclosure requirements at issue in the case and to help check the decline in Americans’ confidence in their government.”
That line of criticism is particularly rich coming from a group of Democrat lawmakers, many of whom have gone all-in on the left’s quest to pack the Supreme Court with liberal justices, doing so with massive amounts of funding from dark money groups tied to progressive billionaire George Soros, as Fox News recently reported.
Despite the worrisome unpredictability of certain SCOTUS justices in recent years, it is encouraging indeed that the court now appears ready to prevent California from weaponizing citizens’ political affiliations and chill their right to free expression in what can only be seen as a stinging rebuke of the sitting vice president’s prior attempt to do just that.