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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Kochs Ask Full Ninth to Take Up Donor List Issue

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Koch brothers' advocacy foundation on Monday asked the Ninth Circuit to reconsider a recent decision that allows the California Attorney General to collect a tax form listing its donors.

In a Dec. 29 order, the appeals court partly overturned a Los Angeles federal judge who last year barred Attorney General Kamala Harris from collecting and publicly revealing the names and contact information of Americans for Prosperity's donors.

Conservative Christian law firm Thomas More Law Center filed a similar complaint against Harris in 2015.

The Ninth Circuit's per curiam opinion allows Harris to collect the group's Schedule B tax forms but bars the state from publicly disclosing the information.

Foundation lawyer Derek Shaffer asked for rehearing before the full Ninth Circuit on Monday, arguing that the appeals court opinion "raises important First Amendment questions" and could allow California to make a "blanket demand for the rosters of individual supporters" of U.S. charities.

Without court orders "protecting against the resulting chill demonstrated by a particular charity" then "meaningful recourse will effectively be foreclosed to charities of every stripe - religious, educational, and legal advocacy groups - from the foundation and law center to Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, and the ACLU, to name just a few," Shaffer wrote.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocate of free-market economic policies, sued California Attorney General Kamala Harris in 2014 claiming the prosecutor violates their First Amendment rights by not allowing it to keep donor names secret.

Backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, the group said in its filing that the Schedule B federal tax form that it filed with the IRS listed 990 donor names and addresses.

The group claims that it has submitted documentation to renew its registration in California but never had to file the Schedule B until 2013, until Harris stated "out of the blue" that the foundation could not register without submitting the tax form.

Americans for Prosperity said in court filings that it must guard the "confidentiality of its donors to ensure their safety," citing "threats" made against "associates" of the group "ranging from threats to kill or maim, to threats to firebomb buildings."

David Koch and his older brother Charles head Koch Industries. They are among the wealthiest people in the world, with a combined net worth of more than $75 billion.

The case is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 23 in U.S. District Judge Manuel Real's courtroom.

Harris' office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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