Sean Noble, the man who operated an Arizona nonprofit group that channeled millions of dollars in anonymous donations to two California ballot measures in 2012, said in a television interview Sunday that the investigation he faced by California's political watchdog was "a complete over-reach."
In October, Noble's group, the Center to Protect Patient Rights, and another Arizona nonprofit agreed to pay California's Fair Political Practices Commission a $1 million fine for not properly reporting the source of their contributions to groups that were working to support Proposition 32 and oppose Proposition 30. Those measures sought, respectively, to weaken union influence and raise taxes.
The fine set the record as the stiffest penalty the state has ever levied for a violation of campaign finance laws, and made national news as a rare case of regulators successfully shining more light on the practices that allow donors to shield their identities while giving big money to political campaigns.
"It was an example where government has a tremendous amount of authority to do things that violate the rights of individuals. And the investigation that led them to levy this fine was a complete over-reach," Noble said in an interview with News 12, the NBC affiliate in Phoenix, Arizona.
Noble also talked about his relationship with the Koch brothers and his new political nonprofit group called American Encore, which you can watch here. The discussion about California's FPPC investigation starts around the 5:35 minute mark.
Gary Winuk, the FPPC's chief of enforcement, responded to Noble's comments with this prepared statement:
"Sean Noble agreed to and paid a record fine on behalf of the Koch network for a reason. It was the largest amount of undisclosed dark money in the history of California. His vain attempts to try to minimize the case should not serve to give comfort to anyone who tries to hide money in California, because we are prepared to confront them at every turn."
PHOTO: Ann Ravel, then-chairwoman of the California FPPC, announces October 24, 2013, a $1 million fine against Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua
Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:23 p.m. to include a comment from the FPPC's Gary Winuk.