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ACLU Legal Director Retracts Tweet Criticizing Supreme Court Decision After Learning Employer Filed Brief In Support Of Plaintiffs
The US Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC on July 1, 2021.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Many on the Left were upset by the Supreme Court’s ruling in a case related to campaign finance laws in California. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 along partisan lines to strike down a California law that required nonprofits to disclose their donors to the state, something critics said violated the First Amendment and could lead to political targeting.

One such critic was the American Civil Liberties Union’s legal director, David Cole, who slammed the decision as one that would make it “harder to prove voter suppression, and easier to hide large donations.” Ten hours later, however, Cole added a follow-up to his tweet, saying it was “too hasty.”

“… [Americans for Prosperity Foundation] AFPF decision protects important association rights, and doesn’t question disclosure requirements in campaign finance,” Cole wrote.

So, what changed? Well, it’s anyone’s guess, but it might have something to do with the fact that Cole’s employer filed an amicus brief in support of AFP, the plaintiffs in the case. Further, Cole’s name appears on that brief.

The case was brought by AFP and the Thomas More Law Center, who challenged the California law. As Forbes reported, though “donors are not made public and California collects the donors for private purposes such as law enforcement investigations, information has leaked in the past, leading the organizations to argue the law could potentially put donors at risk if their involvement with partisan organizations becomes public.”

In a state like California, the risk for conservative groups is considerable, but the two groups received support from an amicus brief from not only the ACLU, but also the NAACP, who said the California law “risks undermining the freedom to associate for expressive purposes.” The groups, however, requested a narrow ruling in the court’s decision and suggested any relief not apply to all nonprofits.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the decision, arguing that the California law amounted to a “blanket demand” for nonprofits to disclose their donors, which he called “facially unconstitutional.” He added that such an “up-front collection” of donor data “imposes a widespread burden on donors’ associational rights.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent, claimed the majority’s ruling was supported by “neither precedent nor common sense,” an odd statement given the precedent of Citizens United and the fact that donor information has been leaked in the past.

The decision was released on the final day of current Supreme Court term, following numerous decisions that did not break along assumed partisan lines, such as a 9-0 ruling that said illegal immigrants don’t have a right to a green card and another unanimous ruling that said a Catholic foster agency didn’t have to work with same-sex couples in violation of their faith.

“The dispute arose because Catholic Social Services — which was receiving taxpayer funds — was unwilling to work with LGBTQ couples as foster parents out of religious objections to same sex marriage. The policy was brought to the attention of the city in 2018 after inquiries from a local newspaper, and soon after the government put a freeze on the contract. The group, led by long-time foster parent Sharonell Fulton who has fostered more than 40 children over 25 years, brought suit,” CNN reported.

Even though the state cracked down on the agency, it had never been approached by nor denied an adoption to a same-sex couple.

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