Federal judge strikes down NJ ‘donor disclosure’ law

Trenton, New Jersey at night - Illinois Opportunity Project v. Holden

TRENTON, N.J. (Mar. 11, 2020) – In a major victory for free speech rights, a federal judge in New Jersey has permanently struck down a controversial law that violated the privacy of Americans participating in the political process. As a result of today’s action, issue advocacy organizations in the state will no longer be forced to hand over to the government private information about the people who support their efforts.

Judge Brian Martinotti of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granted a permanent injunction filed by the Illinois Opportunity Project. All provisions of S. 150 are now blocked.

“Today’s order stopping New Jersey’s egregious intrusion into the privacy of donors, members and volunteers for issue-advocacy groups is a clear victory for free speech,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “Adopted under the guise of transparency, these laws are designed to allow opponents of advocacy groups to intimidate and harass the organizations’ supporters. All Americans should be free to support causes they believe in without an invasion into their privacy through excessive government reporting requirements or retribution from their opponents. We are proud of Illinois Opportunity Project for standing up for these critical rights and ensuring that supporters of issue advocacy organizations are protected.”

Background: Liberty Justice Center is representing Illinois Opportunity Project in Illinois Opportunity Project v. Holden. The lawsuit was filed on Sept. 11, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Trenton Division. The case is available here: https://libertyjusticecenter.org/cases/illinois-opportunity-project-v-holden.

In June 2019, New Jersey enacted S. 150. The law required only certain organizations providing factual and opinion information about legislation to register with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission as an “independent expenditure committee.” Additionally, the law required these organizations to disclose information about volunteer leaders, members and supporters, provide quarterly financial reports, and add a disclaimer of issue-ad sponsorship to communications. The law applied to 501(c)4 and 527 advocacy groups, but not business groups or unions.

The statute faced legal challenges from Illinois Opportunity Project, Americans for Prosperity and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

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