Americans’ right to support causes they believe in without fear of retaliation is at the center of Illinois Opportunity Project v. Bullock filed August 27, 2019, against Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and the head of that state’s procurement bureau.
In 2018, Governor Bullock issued an executive order that requires companies bidding for state contracts to disclose donations made to organizations advocating for issues, candidates, or political parties within 60 days of an election. Requiring such disclosures stifles companies’ First Amendment rights without preventing corruption in the state contract bidding process. Whether intended or not, the order effectively silences organizations seeking a state contract that disagree with the governor.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Illinois Opportunity Project, a nonpartisan, 501c4 organization that plans to engage in issue advocacy in Montana prior to the 2020 election.
Across the nation, public support for candidates and causes has resulted in lost jobs and contracts, property being destroyed, and even death threats. Requiring donors to disclose their support will unconstitutionally chill the free speech of organizations like IOP.
As Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center, observed, “forcing a person or group to disclose their contributions in order to be considered for work goes against our country’s founding principles as well as our current laws.”