A Sacramento Superior Court judge tentatively ruled Tuesday that an obscure Arizona nonprofit must document the source of its $11 million initiative contribution, siding with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.
The state campaign watchdog agency and Gov. Jerry Brown have railed against Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership for cloaking its contributors, saying voters deserve to know who is behind the eight-figure check. The funds went to a business committee opposed to Brown's tax initiative, Proposition 30, and supportive of a measure restricting union dues collection, Proposition 32.
FPPC chairwoman Ann Ravel has said her agency is trying to determine whether ARL violated state campaign disclosure rules, which require a nonprofit to reveal its contributors if funds were earmarked for an initiative effort. The commission is seeking everything from donor e-mails to financial transaction records to determine if a violation took place, which would trigger further action that could lead to public disclosure.
Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang wrote in a tentative ruling this afternoon that the FPPC has the authority to audit a nonprofit before an election and agreed that voters "will suffer irreparable harm" because they will never know the donors they potentially have the right to know.