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'Koch Brothers, Show Us Your Donors!' 9th Circuit Says

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. | Last updated on

Back in the days of the Watergate scandal, Congress vowed to beef up tax-donor and privacy protections in order to minimize "potential and actual disclosure." Over time, it became widely accepted that donors could make monetary contributions to organizations listed as non-profits without the need to file the usual "Schedule B."

Enter California Attorney General Kamala Harris who began to demand the filing of Schedule Bs under the threat of sanction and fees against the donees. Fury Ensues. No matter, the Ninth Circuit will expose you as a donor to the Koch brothers in the end.

Anonymous Gift Giving

It began when Attorney General of California Kamala Harris demanded that charitable Schedule B listings be made available to her office; she sent that demand to the Koch Brothers, the wealthy backers to the conservative Americans for Prosperity group.

In the ensuing lawsuit, the AFP argued that disclosure of the list to Harris would lead to public disclosure and public shaming. The effect, it was argued, would be a chilling of free speech and an assault on the First Amendment. In this case, the Koch Brothers won.

"Clearly Erroneous"

But the victory would not last. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit overturned the lower federal court's ruling and said that the AFP's concerns about the chilling of free speech were "clearly erroneous" and that it failed to justify the reasoning behind its fear. In the meantime, while that list is being handed over, the suit is pending a decision.

This is the second time that Harris has successfully won in court to compel non-profits to pony up their donor lists. Its looking like California's reputation for being amenable to left leaning ideals is quite on track.

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