California Bill Requiring Burdensome Disclosure from Nonprofits and Local Groups Would Stifle Speech

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Center for Competitive Politics’ External Relations Director Matt Nese filed comments today on California Assembly Bill 45, currently being considered before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill, which introduces a new reporting regime for donors who contribute $200 or more to “multipurpose organizations,” is really, according to Nese, “so broad as to likely be misunderstood by everyday citizen groups that choose to speak on issues unrelated to express advocacy concerning a candidate.” An earlier version of the bill had a proposed disclosure thresholdof $250. That amount was decreased to $200 by the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee.

The bill defines a “multipurpose organization” as a “nonprofit organization, a federal or out-of-state political action committee, or a local club focusing on educational or social activities.”

Nese explains that the proposed legislation is likely unconstitutional according to Supreme Court precedent in both Citizens United v. FEC and Massachusetts Citizens for Life v. FEC (MCFL).

“Essentially, the proposed bill would force nonprofit groups to face disclosure to the government of their donors who have given $200 or more, if the organization has made aggregate contributions or independent expenditures of $2,000 or more during any of the four preceding calendar years, or instead avoid all political speech entirely,” Nese writes. “MCFL noted that these sorts of ‘incentives’ serve to ‘necessarily produce a result which the State [can]…not command directly. It only result[s] in a deterrence of speech which the Constitution ma[de]free.’”

Additional concerns include the likelihood that A.B. 45 could violate the privacy rights of contributors to nonprofit organizations, will result in “junk disclosure” by broadly associating contributors with political communications that they may not support and likely have no knowledge of, and the possibility that this type of regulation could lead to the harassment of individuals from their political opposition.
A copy of the comments can be found here.

For more information or to interview Nese, please contact CCP Communications Director Sarah Lee at 770.598.7961.

The Center for Competitive Politics promotes and defends the First Amendment’s protection of the political rights of speech, assembly, and petition. It is the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.

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