Justia Non-Profit Corporations Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Supreme Court
Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta
Charitable organizations soliciting funds in California generally must register with the Attorney General and renew their registrations annually by filing copies of their IRS Form 990, on which tax-exempt organizations provide the names and addresses of their major donors. Two tax-exempt charities that solicit contributions in California renewed their registrations and filed redacted Form 990s to preserve their donors’ anonymity. The Attorney General threatened the charities with the suspension of their registrations and fines. The charities alleged that the compelled disclosure requirement violated their First Amendment rights and the rights of their donors. The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Attorney General.The Supreme Court reversed. California’s disclosure requirement is facially invalid because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest. Compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute as effective a restraint on freedom of association as other forms of governmental action. Exacting scrutiny requires that a government-mandated disclosure regime be narrowly tailored to the government’s asserted interest, even if it is not the least restrictive means of achieving that end.A dramatic mismatch exists between the Attorney General's asserted interest and the disclosure regime. While California’s interests in preventing charitable fraud and self-dealing are important, the enormous amount of sensitive information collected through the disclosures does not form an integral part of California’s fraud detection efforts. California does not rely on those disclosures to initiate investigations. There is no evidence that alternative means of obtaining the information, such as a subpoena or audit letter, are inefficient and ineffective by comparison. Mere administrative convenience does not “reflect the seriousness of the actual burden” that the disclosure requirement imposes on donors’ association rights. It does not make a difference if there is no public disclosure, if some donors do not mind having their identities revealed, or if the relevant donor information is already disclosed to the IRS. View "Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta" on Justia Law
Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc.
The U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, 22 U.S.C. 7601, authorizes appropriations to fund nongovernmental efforts to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide, with conditions that: no funds “may be used to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution” and no funds may be used by an organization “that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution” (the Policy Requirement). To enforce the Policy Requirement, the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Agency for International Development require funding recipients to agree that they oppose prostitution. Funding recipients, wishing to remain neutral on prostitution, sought a declaratory judgment that the Policy Requirement violates their First Amendment rights. The district court issued a preliminary injunction, barring the government from cutting off funding during the litigation. The Second Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. The First Amendment “prohibits the government from telling people what they must say.” The Spending Clause grants Congress broad discretion to fund private programs for the general welfare and to limit the use of funds to ensure they are used in the manner intended. There is a distinction between conditions that define the limits of the spending program and specify the activities Congress wants to subsidize and conditions that seek to leverage funding to regulate speech outside the contours of the federal program itself. The Act’s other condition, prohibiting use of funds “to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking,” ensures that federal funds will not be used for prohibited purposes. The Policy Requirement goes further and, by its very nature, affects protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program. The Requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that could undermine the federal program and requires them to pledge allegiance to government policy. View "Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc." on Justia Law