Speed Reads

Privacy concerns

Supreme Court hands win to 'dark money' groups in California donor disclosure ruling

In a 6-3 vote along ideological lines, the Supreme Court struck down a California regulation forcing nonprofits to disclose donors' personal information, CNBC reports. The Thursday decision is a victory for the conservative groups who challenged the law, but "bodes ill" for regulation down the line, dissenters note.

The rule required nonprofits to fork over their Schedule B forms — which include the "personal information of all donors nationwide who had contributed more than $5,000 in a given tax year" — so the state could police charity misconduct, CNBC writes. The court's majority ruled Thursday that while California has "an important interest" in preventing such wrongdoing, Schedule B collection does not "form an integral part of California's fraud detection efforts" and is therefore in violation of donors' First Amendment rights, per CNBC and The Hill.

"California's blanket demand that all charities disclose Schedule Bs to the Attorney General is facially unconstitutional," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion

The dissent, however, argued that such a decision spells trouble for regulating organizations in the future. 

"Today's analysis marks reporting and disclosure requirements with a bull's-eye," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "Regulated entities who wish to avoid their obligations can do so by vaguely waving toward First Amendment 'privacy concerns.'"

Thursday's decision is also a blow to efforts to rein in "dark money political groups," in that it could complicate "donor-disclosure requirements for groups that often pour large sums into elections" but stop just short of triggering disclosure, Politico notes.

"We are now on a clear path to enshrining a constitutional right to anonymous spending in our democracy, and securing an upper hand for dark-money influence in perpetuity," said campaign finance reform advocate and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), per CNN.