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U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. Socialist Workers Comm., 459 U.S. 87 (1982)

Brown v. Socialist Workers '74 Campaign Committee

No. 81-776

Argued October 4, 1982

Decided December 8, 1982

459 U.S. 87


Held: The disclosure provisions of the Ohio Campaign Expense Reporting Law requiring every candidate for political office to report the names and addresses of campaign contributors and recipients of campaign disbursements, cannot be constitutionally applied to appellee Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a minor political party that historically has been the object of harassment by Government officials and private parties. Pp. 459 U. S. 91-102.

(a) The First Amendment prohibits a State from compelling disclosures by a minor political party that will subject those persons identified to the reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisals. Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 424 U. S. 74. Moreover, minor parties must be allowed sufficient flexibility in the proof of injury. Ibid. These principles for safeguarding the First Amendment interests of minor parties and their members and supporters apply not only to the compelled disclosure of campaign contributors but also to the compelled disclosure of recipients of campaign disbursements. Pp. 459 U. S. 91-98.

(b) Here, the District Court, in upholding appellees' challenge to the constitutionality of the Ohio disclosure provisions, properly concluded that the evidence of private and Government hostility toward the SWP and its members establishes a reasonable probability that disclosing the names of contributors and recipients will subject them to threats, harassment, and reprisals. Pp. 459 U. S. 98-101.


MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, and POWELL, JJ., joined, and in Parts I, III, and IV of which BLACKMUN, J., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 459 U. S. 102. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which REHNQUIST and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 459 U. S. 107. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 459 U. S. 88

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