Washington, DC – In a letter filed in federal court yesterday, New Jersey’s Attorney General announced an agreement not to enforce a law requiring nonprofits to publicly expose their donors’ identities. The Institute for Free Speech was one of the first to warn of the proposal’s unconstitutional and speech-chilling effects.
“New Jersey’s law was among the nation’s worst for speech and association rights,” said Institute for Free Speech President David Keating. “Americans have the right to support social causes without being exposed to potential harassment and retaliation for their beliefs.”
The letter filed on behalf of New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said “these permanent injunctions will not be limited to the plaintiffs… but will also permanently enjoin enforcement of the statute against others subject to its terms.”
“Attorney General Grewal deserves credit for recognizing this law was indefensible. Settling the litigation will lift the chill on free speech and save taxpayers from wasting more money on legal bills,” said Keating.
The law had been subject to a preliminary injunction imposed by the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on October 2.
“[T]he compelled identification of contributors to independent groups that expend money on political causes can seriously infringe the rights to privacy of association and to belief guaranteed by the First Amendment,” wrote Judge Brian R. Martinotti.
The Institute for Free Speech analyzed the law when it was first proposed in the New Jersey Legislature. IFS Senior Fellow Eric Wang noted that the law would “subject advocacy groups to unconstitutionally vague, broad, and invasive new ‘disclosure’ requirements for merely providing factual information to their members and the public about matters of public concern.”
In an opinion article for NJ.com, IFS President David Keating and ACLU of New Jersey Executive Director Amol Sinha wrote: “The most significant social movements of the last century – for civil rights, racial equality, and LGBTQ rights, to name just a few – were powered by the ability of like-minded people to join and support groups, and to do so privately. Our society would not be where it is today without this fundamental right.”
To read the letter and proposed consent order, click here.
About the Institute for Free Speech
The Institute for Free Speech is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes and defends the First Amendment rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government. Originally known as the Center for Competitive Politics, it was founded in 2005 by Bradley A. Smith, a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. The Institute is the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.