Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy dealt a speedy setback Monday to conservative advocacy groups that had sought to shield the names of their major donors in California.
Without waiting to consult the full court, Kennedy turned down for now an emergency appeal from the Virginia-based Center for Competitive Politics, which has refused to reveal its donors to California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris.
The center has been a leading voice in arguing for free speech and free spending in politics. It does not fund candidates or campaigns, but challenges regulations that restrict political advocacy groups.
In recent months, lawyers for the center have been fighting against a regulation that affects it directly. Nonprofit groups that seek tax-exempt contributions in California and elsewhere must submit disclosure forms to the Internal Revenue Service and to the state.
But the center and Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers, have refused to include a list of their major donors.
They said their donors could be harassed if their names were revealed. Harris' office said the list would be kept as a "confidential record" to be used only in investigations.
A federal judge in Sacramento and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to block the disclosures.
The group filed an emergency appeal with Justice Kennedy asking him to block the disclosures while its lawyers prepared a full appeal to the court. He turned down the request late Monday but did so "without prejudice," meaning that the center could renew its request in the future.
David Keating, president of the center, said that if Harris "attempts to take any action against the center, we will renew our efforts to obtain an injunction."
Kennedy has been a proponent of free speech and free spending in politics, but he also has strongly supported the disclosure laws.
For more on the Supreme Court, follow @DavidGSavage on Twitter.