The state Fair Political Practices Commission sued an Arizona nonprofit this morning as it tries to determine whether the group illegally cloaked donors behind an $11 million contribution now playing a pivotal role in two state initiative contests.
Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership gave $11 million this month to a business committee opposed to Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, Proposition 30, and supportive of a measure that would restrain union dues collection, Proposition 32.
The state FPPC filed suit this morning, asking the Sacramento Superior Court to force Americans for Responsible Leadership to provide communications and transactions data between donors and the nonprofit. The matter is slated for a 2 p.m. hearing today.
FPPC chairwoman Ann Ravel said her agency wants the information to determine whether the $11 million contribution violated state campaign disclosure rules. FPPC asked the group this week to provide the communications but did not receive them.
In its suit, FPPC alleges that hiding the information will "cause great and irreparable harm to the voters of California by potentially denying them vital information regarding the true source of large sums of money being spent to advocate for and against statewide initiatives."
"It's so important for the public to know before they're voting about who the contributors are to campaigns in California, in particular contributors in such a large contribution to influence voters," Ravel said.
Brown has accused Americans for Responsible Leadership of "laundering" contributions in order to cloak donors behind a nonprofit wall. California campaigns benefiting from the money say they do not know who the original donors are, but contend that Americans for Responsible Leadership is a legitimate nonprofit and has the right to collect anonymous donations.
The $11 million contribution is believed to be California's largest by a nonprofit that has not disclosed its individual donors. Wealthy GOP activist Charles Munger Jr. has also given more than $22 million to the same Small Business Action Committee that received the Americans for Responsible Leadership donation.
On the other side, organized labor has collected more than $60 million so far to defeat Proposition 32, while Brown has raised more than $34 million for Proposition 30 this year.