California's 3rd District Court of Appeal today denied the state's emergency request to force an Arizona nonprofit to submit information related to its recent $11 million political contribution.
The decision makes it even less likely that Americans for Responsible Leadership will disclose its donors before Tuesday's election.
Ann Ravel, who heads the state Fair Political Practices Commission, said her agency will now ask the state Supreme Court to force ARL to comply. FPPC has requested emails, texts and financial transactions data related to the $11 million check the group gave a business committee last month. Funds have gone toward fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, Proposition 30, and to support a measure restricting union dues collection, Proposition 32.
"We are pleased with the 3rd District Court of Appeal's decision to deny the state's emergency petition," said Matt Ross, a spokesman for ARL's legal team. "We have contended and continue to believe that the FPPC overstepped its authority in attempting to force an audit in advance of an election."
Even if the state's highest court rules Monday that ARL must transmit information and the FPPC determines ARL violated state law, the watchdog agency would likely have to ask the court again to force the Arizona group to disclose its donors, Ravel acknowledged. She said the ongoing legal battle highlights the need for stronger legislation.
"Just like for some voters it is important to know whether somebody is a Republican or a Democrat, it's important for voters to know who is behind measures or opposing them," Ravel said. "The money paid and spent is an important cue to the voters on how to make decisions."
A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that FPPC has the right to audit ARL and obtain the information requested. But the nonprofit group appealed Thursday and does not have to provide documents while the case faces review unless otherwise ordered by the court to do so.