Today, the Supreme Court issued two troubling decisions. One makes it harder to stop discriminatory voting laws and the other could set the stage to undermine basic tenets of long-standing campaign finance laws. By a 6-3 vote along ideological lines, the Court held that California’s law requiring all tax-exempt groups to disclose to the state (but not publicly) the names and addresses of all donors over $5,000 was overly burdensome to the donor’s First Amendment rights. Issue One’s Executive Director, Meredith McGehee said of the decision:
“Justice Sotomayor said it best in her dissent. The Court’s decision today ‘trades precision for blunt force.’ Donors to tax-exempt organizations can have legitimate privacy concerns, but they should have to show reasonable fear of serious reprisal or harm to avoid disclosure. However, this decision does not require such evidence, it instead presumes that these nonpublic disclosures harm donors. This is a troubling departure from the Court’s decision in Doe v. Reed in 2010. The majority in that case, which included two Justices from the majority in this case, found that disclosure requirements ‘do not directly interfere with First Amendment rights.’
“Disclosure is an important tool to ensure against corruption and its appearance, and this decision threatens the future of robust disclosure regimes. We hope that in the aftermath of this decision, the Court does not apply this reasoning to disclosure associated with politically active groups.
“While today’s decisions are not a surprise given the makeup of today’s Court, which reflects the increasingly partisan split in our country, they come at a time when public faith in government institutions hover at all-time lows. Neither of these decisions will help stem that dangerous tide.”