by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Chinese dissidents are urging the Supreme Court to strike down a California law aimed at cracking down on nonprofits and dark money groups, saying disclosure requirements could endanger the lives of anti-regime activists.
California law requires donors to disclose their identities to the California attorney general’s office, but a wide coalition of different interest groups are arguing the requirement compromises donor anonymity that is vital to their missions. Citizen Power Initiatives for China publicly backed the suit, asking the justices in an amicus brief to protect the privacy of anonymous donors. The group, which promotes the peaceful transition to democracy in China, wrote that even though the donor information is only reported to the California state government, hackers and other data leaks present security risks that could threaten donors.
“Citizen Power Initiatives respectfully asks that this Court also account for the reprisals that domestic and foreign governments may direct toward those who donate to groups that advocate values and freedoms that those governments disfavor,” Citizen Power Initiatives wrote in the brief. The group also argued that one data breach is all that is necessary to compromise the identity of donors.
The California Department of Justice acknowledged major data breaches in 2016. The Chinese dissidents say that past hacks call into question the security of donors’ anonymity.
“A single exposure is all that is needed to invite harassment and reprisals,” the group said in the brief. …
… Chinese dissidents are not the only activists bristling at the disclosure law. The American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Human Rights Campaign all joined a brief challenging the law for chilling free speech and for potentially exposing private information through data leaks.