- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2016

A federal judge ruled Thursday against California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s attempts to gain access to the names and addresses of donors to a prominent free-market nonprofit, calling her demand unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Manuel L. Real issued a permanent injunction against Ms. Harris‘ order that the Americans for Prosperity Foundation turn over its list of major donors or stop soliciting contributions in California.

“Setting aside the Attorney General’s failure to establish a substantial relationship between her demand for AFP’s Schedule B and a compelling governmental interest, AFP would independently prevail on its as-applied challenge because it has proven that disclosing its Schedule B to the Attorney General would create a burden on its First Amendment rights,” said Judge Real in his 12-page ruling.

Luke Hilgemann, chief executive officer of the AFP Foundation, called the ruling “an important victory for free speech and for everyone who believes in the importance of the First Amendment.”

“Donors to organizations, regardless of their views on public policy matters, should be free to support causes they believe in without fear of retaliation, harassment, or intimidation by powerful government figures,” he said in a statement. “The Court’s ruling confirms what we have known all along — that AG Harris has no right to police the beliefs of individual Americans, or causes they choose to support.”

The Democrat Ms. Harris stunned national nonprofits in 2013 when she ordered them to turn over their IRS form 990 Schedule B lists, which give the names and addresses of donors who contribute $5,000 or more per year.

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Her office has said the information is necessary to ensure compliance with laws governing charitable contributions, but critics quickly accused Ms. Harris of attempting to discourage donations to conservative nonprofits by increasing the risk that donors’ names would be inadvertently disclosed.

The AFP Foundation and others noted that they had never before been required to submit the IRS forms in California. Only two other states require 501c3 groups that solicit donations in their states to do so.

“Once AFP’s donor information is disclosed, it cannot be clawed back,” said the ruling. “Thus, if the Attorney General is allowed to compel AFP to disclose its Schedule B, the ensuing intimidation and harassment of AFP’s donors, and resulting chilling effect on First Amendment rights, cannot be undone.”

Ms. Harris’s office had also threatened to prosecute boards of directors members individually who fail to comply. The chairman of the AFP Foundation board is David Koch, a well-known funder of free-market causes who has been criticized in the past by Ms. Harris.

The California Attorney General’s office did not comment immediately publicly on the ruling. Ms. Harris is seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate in California.

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