An Arizona nonprofit that spent $11 million last month on two high-profile California initiative battles appealed an unfavorable trial court decision today, for now blocking the state from obtaining transaction records as requested.
Americans for Responsible Leadership believes the state Fair Political Practices Commission has no authority to audit organizations before an election, said Matt Ross, a spokesman for the group's attorneys. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday for the FPPC, but her order allowed ARL to avoid submitting data for an audit by appealing the decision.
The state responded today by filing an "emergency petition" with the Sacramento-based Third District Court of Appeal asking that it change the order to force ARL to supply information to the FPPC while the issue undergoes legal review.
"The people of the State of California, via initiative, have determined that the disclosure of campaign contributions prior to the election is of great importance in making electoral decisions," the state wrote. "This information is, by its very nature, only relevant before the election."
The FPPC last week filed suit against ARL seeking emails, text messages and financial transaction records related to the $11 million contribution the group made to a business committee last month. The recipient, Small Business Action Committee, is fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, Proposition 30, and supporting a measure that would restrict union dues collection, Proposition 32.
The state watchdog agency is trying to audit the group's activities to determine if ARL violated campaign disclosure rules by shielding its donors. Under state rules, an organization must report its individual contributors if money was earmarked for a particular campaign in California.