Although the Institute for Free Speech works hard at challenging as many absurd First Amendment violating restrictions as possible, there are many cases with which we are not involved that have the potential to significantly impact First Amendment jurisprudence.
Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is challenging the state of California’s requirement that the organization provide to the state a list of its prominent donors’ names and addresses in order to operate. This donor disclosure requirement is a violation of each donor’s right to give privately to causes they believe in, and creates a significant chilling effect on AFPF’s First Amendment right to associate. In the past, the state has proven unable to keep this information confidential. By revealing this private information, donors are susceptible to threats and intimidation. In order to justify these First Amendment burdens, the state must show a compelling need for the disclosed information, something California has failed to do.
Defendants launched and aggressively pursued a secret criminal investigation targeting every major right-of-center advocacy group in Wisconsin on the view that this kind of “coordination” between a candidate and supporters of his policies is illegal. They also claim the power to restrict speech on public- policy issues based on an advocacy group’s communications with a candidate, whether or not that speech has anything to do with that candidate’s own campaign or election. In short, Defendants claim a carte blanche to target more or less every person or group that has ever participated in Wisconsin political or policy debates, to raid their homes, seize their records and personal effects, subpoena their emails and phone records, and threaten them with prosecution—all things that Defendants actually did in this case—merely for speaking out on the issues.
The lawsuit follows Gessler’s determination that Citizens United film and related promotional materials do not fall within Colorado’s various media exemptions and would be subject to Colorado’s burdensome campaign finance reporting and disclosure requirements. The media exemptions, as enforced, protect the rights of the print media and broadcast facilities while discriminating against the constitutionally protected speech of speakers such as Citizens United. Relying extensively on its landmark win in Citizens United v. FEC, the lawsuit challenges the discriminatory reporting and disclosure regime that applies to electioneering communications and independent expenditures.