California Supreme Court Orders Not-for-Profit To Reveal Donors
On Sunday, the California Supreme Court ordered the Americans for Responsible Leadership -- an Arizona-based not-for-profit -- to immediately 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 Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Yamamura, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 11/4).
In October, 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.
After a hearing held last Wednesday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang ordered ARL to disclose the donor information, 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."
On Thursday, ARL appealed the order, blockingÂ the state from obtaining the transaction records during legal review (California Healthline, 11/2).
Details of Supreme Court Order
The state Supreme Court issued its 7-0 decision at 3 p.m. on Sunday and gave ARL until 4 p.m. to comply ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 11/4).
ARL lawyers asked for an extension, saying that providing the information within one hour was too difficult from "a logistical perspective."
The state justices denied the request for an extension.
ARL Plans To Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court
Later, ARL lawyers filed a letter outlining their plans to continue appealing the case, including asking the U.S. Supreme Court to examine the lawsuit.
In the letter, Attorney Thad Davis said that the case raises "novel and pressing issues" that must be considered closely before ARL is forced to reveal its donors.
He wrote that the lawsuit involves "critical First Amendment issues regarding the ability of an organization to freely associate and speak on vital election-related matters without reprisal by government officials opposed to their view" (Megerian, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
ARL said Sunday that it also was attempting to contact FPPC to comply with the state Supreme Court's order ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 11/4).
In response to the letter outlining ARL's appeal plans, California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) said, "It is outrageous that they are purposely and continuously trying to bypass the rules," adding, "This is an effort to obstruct the process and run out the clock" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 11/5).
FPPC Expects ToÂ Receive Donor Names Monday
FPPC Chair Ann Ravel said she expects that the agency will receive the names of the donors at 8 a.m. Monday morning. The group plans to make the names public (Yamamura, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/5).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.