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By Edvard Pettersson
February 17, 2015 – 10:56 AM PST

(Bloomberg) — A Koch brothers advocacy group can keep its donor list secret for now, with a federal judge ruling that revealing the identities would chill free speech.

The ruling comes as billionaires Charles and David Koch seek to raise almost $1 billion in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a nonprofit foundation started by the brothers, persuaded the judge on Tuesday to block California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s demand for the names and addresses of its donors while the group challenges the state’s disclosure requirements. The foundation, which promotes limited government and free markets and conservative causes, claims its contributors may be at risk of being targeted by its opponents, and would-be donors could be scared off, if their identities became known.

“Grotesque threats have been leveled against known associates of the foundation, ranging from threats to kill or maim, to threats to firebomb buildings,” the organization said in its request to block California from seeking the information while it fights the state in court.

The political network overseen by the Kochs set a fundraising goal for the presidential election of $889 million on Jan. 26 at a Koch-organized summit of 450 wealthy donors and small-government activists in Palm Springs, California. Various parts of the network run television ads, develop voter data files and operate phone banks.

Richest People

The brothers are ranked on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as the world’s fifth- and sixth-richest people with a combined net worth of $100 billion.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real, in granting the group’s request to prevent Harris from seeking the information until the legality of the request has been resolved, cited a separate case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco halted the attorney general from enforcing the demand on the Center for Competitive Politics while that case was before that court.

Real rejected Harris’s argument that her office won’t publicly disclose the donor information, saying that California doesn’t have regulation preventing such disclosure and that, as such, it was left to the attorney general’s discretion whether to make it public.

The judge agreed with the foundation that the attorney general’s office won’t be harmed by an injunction because it hadn’t had the donor information for the past decade.

“We’re very appreciative of the court’s ruling,” Harold Barza, a lawyer for the foundation, said after the hearing.

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