Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Daily News: “New York Law Requiring Nonprofits to Report Information About Major Donors Upheld”

February 26, 2018

As published by The New York Daily News, on February 15, 2018.

A federal appeals court Thursday upheld a New York law requiring nonprofits to report identifying information about their largest donors to the state Attorney General’s Office.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit found the objections to the requirement of nonprofits to disclose information such as names, addresses and contributions of their big donors without merit.

“We find that the mere requirement on a tax exempt organization to disclose its donor list to a state’s authority charged with regulating nonprofits does not impermissibly chill (First Amendment) speech or assembly rights,” the three-judge panel wrote in its decision. “No does it operate as a prior restraint on nonprofits’ solicitation of donations.”

The case was brought in 2015 by Citizens United, which is best known for its successful 2010 lawsuit that led to a prohibition of restrictions of independent political spending.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the decision “affirms that Citizens United can no longer shroud its biggest donors in secrecy.”

“State law demands that organizations like Citizens United disclose their biggest donors to regulators so they can police fraud and abuse in the nonprofit sector,” he said.

He called the ruling “a victory for all of those who believe in fairness across this vital sector of New York’s economy.”

Citizens United argued that its donors if identified would “reasonably fear public backlash, financial harm, and worse.”

Citizens United Vice President and General Counsel Michael Boos said the group is “extremely disappointed” by the court’s “adverse” ruling to uphold the lower court’s decision.

He said the group is evaluating its options, including either petitioning for a rehearing before the full appeals court or an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We suffered a similar fate when we challenged the federal ban on corporate sponsored political speech, but were ultimately vindicated at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Boos said.

The country’s high court in the 2010 Citizens United lawsuit found that independent political action committees can raise and spend unlimited amounts on races as long as there is no coordination between the groups and the campaigns.

Democrats have bemoaned the decision for allowing big special interest money to flood into campaigns.