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Group Appeals Order To Reveal Campaign Donor Information

On Thursday, Americans for Responsible Leadership -- an Arizona-based not-for-profit -- appealed a judge's order to disclose the sources of its $11 million donation to a group opposing Proposition 30, a compromise tax hike plan developed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and supporters of the "Millionaires Tax," the Los Angeles Times reports (Megerian, Los Angeles Times, 11/2).

Background

Last week, the state Fair Political Practices Commission filed a lawsuit to determine whether ARL illegally concealed the identity of donors who gave money to the Small Business Action Committee, which opposes Prop. 30. SBAC also supports Proposition 32, a campaign finance measure.

State regulations say that not-for-profits cannot conceal donors' identities if their contributions go toward state campaigns.

ARL filed a 14-page brief arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a campaign free speech lawsuit, shows "the indisputable notion that non-profit corporations have constitutional rights."

The group argued that FPPC does not have authority to audit the communications between donors and the not-for-profit until after the election and that the agency did not consult its commissioner before asking for the information.

The filing states that FPPC has never requested such information from at least eight other not-for-profits, including the American Cancer Society, which donated millions toward a tobacco tax initiative this year.

Details of Judge's Ruling

After a hearing held Wednesday afternoon, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang issued the final ruling, saying that "irreparable harm has occurred and continues to occur as each day passes and voters continue to cast their votes without information that may influence their votes."

In a statement, Matt Ross -- spokesperson for ARL's legal team -- said that the not-for-profit is "disappointed" in the ruling. He said, "We have asserted all along that the FPPC does not have the authority to issue an audit in advance of the election" (California Healthline, 11/1).

Details of Appeal, 'Emergency Petition'

The appeal filed by ARL blocks the state from obtaining the transaction records during legal review.

In response to the appeal, the state filed an "emergency petition" with the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento that asks the court to order ARL to disclose the information while the case is reviewed.

In the petition, state officials wrote, "This information is, by its very nature, only relevant before the election" (Yamamura, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 11/1). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.