Roberts' court pushed by conservative groups to keep 'dark money' donors from being exposed
Chief Justice John Roberts

On Friday the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take up two cases that could have a huge bearing on the so-called "dark money" that is infecting elections with two conservative groups hoping they can keep the names of their big-money donors hidden.

According to a report from Matt Ford at The Atlantic, the conservative-leaning court headed by Chief Justice John Roberts are set to review "challenges to a California law aimed at preventing fraud among charitable organizations. Two conservative political-advocacy groups, supported by a host of other nonprofits, are trying to keep the identities of their top donors out of a registry maintained by the state attorney general’s office."

As the political-advocacy groups see it, the case revolves around what they believe is a violation their constitutional rights to freedom of association -- saying "that the requirement could have a chilling effect on donations and even place supporters at risk of harassment and physical peril—though the state offered assurances that this information would not be released to the general public."

The cases, Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra and Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra, take aim at a California law that requires charities operating in the state to provide certain records to the state government every year for regulatory purposes," Ford writes. "To ensure that tax-exempt groups aren’t committing fraud, the IRS generally requires those groups to submit a form that identifies donors whose contributions are either greater than $5,000 or make up more than 2 percent of the group’s budget. Federal law bars the IRS from releasing the contents of those forms, which are known as Section B forms, to the public in any manner."

Ford adds that "both organizations focus on different aspects of right-wing politics," with AFP backed by libertarian and conservative groups founded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, and that the "TMLC, a legal organization, said its mission was to 'restore and defend America’s Judeo-Christian heritage' by promoting Roman Catholic values on family and marriage and opposing the 'imposition of sharia law within the United States.'"

How the court will rule in the two cases seems to be up in the air if recent history is any guide.

"In the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Justice Clarence Thomas sided with the other conservative justices to pare back a major campaign-finance reform law. But he parted ways with them on preserving the law’s donor-disclosure requirements. Thomas cited a litany of threats and protests made against donors who had backed California’s Proposition 8, which state voters had approved two years earlier," Ford writes. "But it’s unclear whether the other justices will side with him. Antonin Scalia, for example, once offered a starkly different view of secrecy and liberty."

"The justices are not strangers to America’s partisan divides. The Supreme Court has arguably shaped and been shaped by those chasms more than any other institution. If it agrees to hear the case, it’ll also have to decide whether civically engaged citizens can still trust their political opponents to operate in good faith when they hold the levers of power in the state of California—and by extension, the nation," the author concluded.

You can read more details here.