Breaking News

No protection — yet — for group’s donor privacy

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy refused on Monday — but maybe only temporarily — to protect a non-profit political rights group from having to disclose its list of donors to state officials in California.  Kennedy said in the denial order that the request of the Center for Competitive Politics could be renewed “in light of further developments.”

While he did not explain what those developments might be, it could be that he was anticipating that state officials might make a new move to obtain those lists, or that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit might take a new step to facilitate officials’ access to donors’ identities.

The Center has argued that its rights of free speech and political association have been violated by California’s demand that it turn over documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service that include donor lists.  It lost its challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit, while refusing to block the state demand while the Center pursued an appeal to the Supreme Court, has delayed the order that would formally implement its ruling against the Center.  That has had the practical effect, at least for the time being, of keeping the situation on hold.

Justice Kennedy, in denying immediate relief for the Center, but doing so “without prejudice” to its renewal, apparently did not ask for a response from state officials before acting.   It seems likely that he did not see a particular urgency in the Center’s situation right now, but wanted to keep open the option of reconsidering if the situation does change in coming days.

In practical terms, what it means is that the next move is probably up to the California attorney general.

The Center’s president, David Keating, said in a statement that it would go ahead with its appeal to the Supreme Court, and if the state attorney general attempted any action, it would renew its request for an order blocking that.  “We will continue to monitor developments while the full Court considers our petition,” he added.


Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, No protection — yet — for group’s donor privacy, SCOTUSblog (May. 18, 2015, 6:47 PM),