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Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a California law that required nonprofits to hand over a list of their biggest donors.

Why it matters: Some campaign-finance advocates have feared the court will begin chipping away at disclosure rules more broadly, making it harder and harder to figure out who’s funding major political causes.

The big picture: In a 6-3 ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court said California had subjected donors to the threat of public harassment and intimidation, undermining their First Amendment right to free association.

Background: California requires nonprofit organizations to give the state a list of their biggest donors each year. The state is supposed to keep that information private, but it has routinely failed to do so. Donors’ names and addresses have often become easily available to the public, according to briefs in the case.

  • A pair of conservative nonprofits — including Americans for Prosperity, an arm of the Koch brothers’ political empire — sued California. Its pattern of making donor information public put individual donors in physical danger, they argued, especially in this toxic political climate.
  • Although conservative organizations brought the suit, the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund took their side. The most relevant precedent in this case was set in the 1950s when Alabama tried to publicly disclose a list of NAACP members as a way to intimidate civil rights activists.

The other side: California said it collected donor information to help investigate potential fraud, but that argument didn’t get very far with the justices.

Go deeper

Multiple civil rights groups sue Texas after voting restrictions become law

From second from right: Texas Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III participate in the March On for Washington and Voting Rights to call on the Senate to pass voting rights legislation. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Civil rights groups filed a slew of lawsuits in Texas on Tuesday, kicking off what is expected to be an extensive legal battle mere hours after Gov. Greg Abbott signed controversial voting restrictions into law.

Why it matters: Critics have denounced the new law as a dangerous voter suppression bill that will disproportionately impact communities of color. The bill drove Texas House Democrats to flee the state in protest, but after enough returned to resume quorum, the legislation went to Abbott's desk.

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

2 hours ago - World

Hong Kong holds first "patriots only" elections

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a news conference last Monday. Photo: Lui Siu Wai/Xinhua via Getty Images

Hong Kong's elections to choose the city's Election Committee members opened to a select group of voters on Sunday, under a new "patriots only" system imposed by China's government.

Why it matters: All candidates running to be members of the electoral college have been "vetted" by Beijing, per Reuters. They will go on to choose the Asian financial hub's next leader, approved by China's government, and some of its legislature.