Backers of Proposition 54 Settle Suit Over Campaign Finance Rules, Disclose Largest Contributors
The American Civil Rights Coalition on Wednesday agreed to pay $95,000 to settle a lawsuit in which the state's campaign finance regulator alleged the group violated campaign finance laws by failing to disclose donations to support Proposition 54 prior to the October 2003 recall election, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Berthelsen, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/19).
Proposition 54, also known as the Racial Privacy Initiative, was defeated by a vote of 64% to 36% in the October 2003 special election. The measure would have prohibited California government agencies and schools from collecting racial and ethnic data but would have allowed exemptions in instances involving some medical research data, convicted criminals or crime suspects and occasions in which the federal government requires racial data.
The initiative was written by University of California Regent Ward Connerly (California Healthline, 10/8/03).
The campaign in favor of the initiative was funded by donations to ACRC, of which Connerly is director. According to the Chronicle, Connerly did not disclose $1.7 million in contributions in support of Proposition 54 (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/19).
Previously, Connerly had disclosed that he and other supporters had raised $214,000 to promote Proposition 54 while a coalition of health care professionals, labor unions, civil rights advocates, teachers and American Indian tribes who opposed the measure raised $9.3 million to defeat it (California Healthline, 10/8/03).
According to the Chronicle, $1.3 million of the $1.7 million in undisclosed contributions came from six contributors, each of which "gave hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money" to ACRC to fund the initiative.
Prior to the election, the Fair Political Practices Commission sued ACRC for failing to disclose the contributors. However, Judge Thomas Cecil of Sacramento Superior Court declined to order the disclosures prior to the election.
However, on Wednesday ACRC agreed to the settlement and "acknowledge[d] that it violated campaign finance laws by not disclosing donations at the time," according to the Chronicle.
The contributions were made public after ACRC agreed to the settlement.
The filing showed that the largest contributor to the Proposition 54 campaign was John Moores of Del Mar, chair of technology venture capital firm JMI, who gave $400,000 to the initiative. Media entrepreneur Rupert Murdoch gave $300,000, deceased beer industry official Joseph Coors contributed a $250,000 loan and an additional $100,000 directly to the Proposition 54 campaign and Jerry Hume, president of Walnut Creek-based Basic American Foods, gave $200,000.
Diane Schachterle, a spokesperson for ACRC, said the donors felt the disclosure of their contributions was "an invasion of their privacy -- an assault on their right to assemble without fear of retaliation" (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/19).