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A Sacramento Superior Court judge withheld her final ruling this afternoon after listening to attorneys debate whether an out-of-state group must subject itself to an audit of its donors.

Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang could issue her decision later today.

Attorneys for the state's campaign watchdog agency and Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership debated whether the state could immediately audit the obscure group.

The group injected itself into California politics last month with an $11 million contribution to a committee that is fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure, Proposition 30, and supporting another ballot initiative, Proposition 32, that ban end paycheck-deducted money from funding politics.

If the commission gets the records, it will review them, looking for whether its donors have been illegally shielded from disclosure. State law requires that donors must be identified if they gave to nonprofits with the intention of spending money on state campaigns here.

The disclosure laws allow a reporting delay that the FPPC says it has authority to circumvent in this case.

Attorney Jason Torchinsky, representing the Arizona group, said that the Fair Political Practices Commission's request for unredacted records including emails and bank statements, exceeds the scope of the law.

He also suggested that the commission's audit request was politically motivated.

If court sides with the state, Torchinsky said, the message conveyed will be "if your speech is unpopular, expect reprisals."

Brown has blasted the Arizona nonprofit for failing to disclose the source of its funds. Last week he compared the little-known Arizona nonprofit to people "who liked to run around in hoods." He later denied that the reference, made during a speech to the NAACP's California state conference, was to the Ku Klux Klan.

Ann Ravel, who chairs the FPPC, is a Brown appointee.

After this afternoon's hearing, Ravel denied the commission's actions were politically motivated, citing the complaint by a good-government group that sparked its push for the audit.

"It was a complaint," Ravel said. "We investigate complaints."


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