Judge Rules Group Must Disclose Campaign Donor Information
On Wednesday, a Sacramento Superior Court judge issued a final ruling that Americans for Responsible Leadership -- an Arizona-based not-for-profit -- must 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 reports (Ortiz/Smith, Sacramento Bee, 11/1).
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 no-cost 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.
On Tuesday, Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang issued a tentative ruling that ARL must disclose the identities of its donors (California Healthline, 10/31).
Details of Final Ruling
After a hearing held Wednesday afternoon, 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."
Reactions to Ruling
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."
ARL said that it plans to appeal the ruling (Sacramento Bee, 11/1).
Derek Cressman of Common Cause -- an activist group that filed a complaint against ARL -- said, "This is a moment of truth for our campaign disclosure laws."
State authorities want ARL's donor information -- such as emails and financial statements -- by Thursday afternoon.
However, since the not-for-profit plans to appeal the order, it is unclear whether the names of the donors will be made public by the election next Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" (Megerian, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 10/31).
Broadcast CoverageOn Wednesday, KPCC's "Represent!" reported on the judge's final ruling (Small, "Represent!" KPCC, 10/31). 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.