Second Circuit: Schneiderman can unmask private group’s donors

At least since 1958’s NAACP v. Alabama, it has been thought settled that state demands for the disclosure of private organizations’ membership and donor lists poses very real risks of First Amendment infringement to which courts must be sensitive. Recent years, however, have seen concerted efforts to strip anonymity from donors to at least some non-profit groups with a policy emphasis. One danger — or feature, from the standpoint of some groups doing the campaigning — is that if target groups can be made to divulge such information, their supporters can be exposed to pressure, shaming, and public and private retaliation.

Kamala Harris, then Attorney General of California and now Senator from that state, did not fare well in court in such a campaign while in state office, but New York’s left-leaning Attorney General Eric Schneiderman seems to be enjoying better luck in a similar push. A Second Circuit panel has ruled in favor of his demands for the donor lists of Citizens United, the conservative group whose role in a landmark First Amendment case at the Supreme Court has made it, along with that case, “the Emmanuel Goldstein of the American left.” It will not be surprising if the Supreme Court is soon asked to reaffirm the protections of NAACP v. Alabama. [Trevor Burrus and Reilly Stephens, Cato, and thanks for mention; see also my April 2016 Cato piece]


  • great googlie mooglie is this just further proof that our court system has become politicized?

    One need only look at what happened in California post-Prop where donors opposed to SSM were outed by those who favored it. people were harassed, businesses boycotted and people were fired, all because they were exercising their first amendment rights.

    this decision will be used by the NYAG to harass people and businesses who support Citizens United. Where is the ACLU?

  • I for one look forward to a right leaning AG following in Schneiderman’s footsteps and the 2nd Circuit by going after the donor lists of the Sierra Cub, Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center…….


    No I don’t. Any more that Schneiderman going after CU.

    Next up on Schneiderman’s list: Secret ballot is eliminated in NY, so that all voters can have their choices scrutinized.

  • It is appalling when federal judges don’t understand basic liberties. Schneidermann is obviously looking to abuse process here, and the federal courts have ratified it.