As details emerge about an out-of-state group that dumped $11 million into California politics this week, a good-government organization this morning called for an investigation into who is behind the money.
California Common Cause has asked the state's political watchdog commission to examine Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership and its contribution to an independent committee backing a controversial campaign finance measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, Proposition 32, and opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal, Proposition 30.
"You know, $11 million doesn't just drop out of the sky," said Derek Cressman, Western regional director for Common Cause.
Americans for Responsible Leadership, an Arizona nonprofit, has not reported its donors to officials there or in California.
California Watch this morning reported that the organization's political track record includes $500,000 spent to oppose an Arizona sales tax hike for schools and $75,000 to oppose a "top-two" primary measure similar to the one California voters approved in 2010.
The Arizona group gave the Small Business Action Committee PAC the $11 million contribution on Tuesday. In turn, the business PAC has given $2.9 million of that money to the No on 30 campaign.
In its request that the state's Fair Political Practices Commission investigate, Common Cause included documents that suggest the Arizona group is part of a larger effort that includes national conservative political activists with deep pockets such as Charles and David Koch and Republican strategist Karl Rove. For example, the client roster of the law firm responsible for incorporating Americans for Responsible Leadership includes Rove's American Crossroads organizations and groups tied to the billionaire Koch brothers.
Common Cause cites new state campaign disclosure rules as the basis for an investigation. But even if the state commission agrees, it's likely the process would drag on well after the election.
"Voters, the media and watchdog organizations are sick of seeing out-of-state donors drop lots of last-minute money," said Common Cause lobbyist Phillip Ung. "We think they should stay out of California's business."
PHOTO: Derek Cressman, Sacramento Bee file