California regulators and attorneys said today they are seriously weighing next steps - including criminal charges - against parties involved in the $11 million contribution whose known trail leads through three different out-of-state nonprofits.
A lawyer for Americans for Responsible Leadership, the Arizona-based donor at the center of the controversy, appeared to acknowledge the possibility of future legal action in a letter he filed this morning with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
Attorney Michael D. Bopp wrote that while new disclosures from Americans for Responsible Leadership and The Center to Protect Patient Rights may relate to state codes banning hidden intermediary contributions, the groups do not admit wrongdoing.
"While these letters relate to Cal. Gov. Code § 84302 and 2 CA ADC § 18432.5, we want to make it clear that they have been sent pursuant to a settlement agreement with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and that neither ARL nor CPPR admit any wrongdoing or that the letters are required by applicable law," Bopp wrote. "Further, ARL and CPPR reserve the right to contest any further proceedings that relate to the contributions discussed in the aforementioned letters."
Both FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel and state Attorney General Kamala Harris said today they are reviewing the matter to see whether further civil or criminal action is warranted. The state previously filed a lawsuit asking Americans for Responsible Leadership to submit records.
"What this committee agreed it had done is a clear violation of the state's money laundering prohibition," said Ravel, a Gov. Jerry Brown appointee.
Ravel said one civil penalty is that the recipient committee pay to the state general fund an amount equal to the contribution - in this case, $11 million. The party liable would be the Small Business Action Committee No on 30/Yes on 32.
SBAC spokeswoman Beth Miller said her group never was told that Americans for Responsible Leadership received its $11 million by way of two other nonprofits. Failing to disclose that information to a recipient committee is a potential violation of California Government Code § 84302.
SBAC immediately updated its campaign disclosure forms this morning to acknowledge contributions from The Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Job Security.
"SBAC PAC had no knowledge that the contribution was from an intermediary," Miller said in a written statement. "As it does with all its donors, upon accepting the donation from Americans for Responsible Leadership SBAC PAC sent a donor advice letter explaining the organization's filing responsibilities. When SBAC PAC was informed this morning by the FPPC it amended its disclosure reports immediately."