Kissel v. Seagull

Fighting unconstitutional burdens on free speech in fundraising

Active: Preliminary injunction granted, putting fundraising registration laws on hold

Adam Kissel looked forward to lending his longtime experience in the liberty movement and higher education to help raise money for the nonprofit Jack Miller Center’s civic education program. But he soon discovered several states have overly burdensome registration and reporting requirements for paid solicitors. Connecticut, in particular, requires Adam to tell the state in advance when he plans to talk to a potential donor and what exactly he’ll say, and report to the government the name of everyone who gives—even just a $1 gift. Going off script could lead to a $5,000 fine and one year in prison. Adam is fighting back, because the First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing him to disclose private speech between donors or strip donor privacy. 

Adam Kissel’s years working for nonprofit organizations and the U.S. Department of Education helped him become extremely knowledgeable about the field of higher education and the movement for freedom and limited government. 

Along the way, Adam has developed a knack for fundraising and philanthropy, and he has been asked by several charitable organizations to help with their fundraising efforts. One such organization is the Jack Miller Center, a nonprofit focused on civic education. The Center wants to pay Adam about ten hours a week to talk with potential donors in several states, including Connecticut. 

Adam has long-standing ties to the organization, and he greatly admires its mission to help professors and instructors teach students about America’s founding principles, government, and history. However, his work stalled before it even got started due to state registration and reporting requirements for paid solicitors. 

Connecticut’s rules are particularly burdensome, requiring, among other things, copies of scripts or promotional materials three weeks before the start of a fundraising campaign.  

In other words, Adam must tell the state in advance when he plans to talk to a potential donor and what exactly he’ll say, and report to the government the name of everyone who gives 

Connecticut law also requires Adam to maintain files containing private information about donors and to make that information available to the state on demand. 

Connecticut’s professional fundraising laws kill fundraisers’ ability to engage in timely, topical, and spontaneous speech, as well as donors’ ability to give anonymously. 

Represented free of charge by PLF, Adam is fighting back with a federal lawsuit to defend fundraisers’ protection against prior restraint by the government and donors’ right to give anonymously.

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What’s at stake?

  • The government cannot demand that you tell them in advance what you are going to say and provide them with a script before you can speak. Nor can the government rob citizens of their privacy when they donate to a nonprofit.

Case Timeline

January 28, 2021

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