California Supreme Court orders Arizona nonprofit to turn over records
In an extraordinarily swift decision, the California Supreme Court unanimously ordered an Arizona nonprofit to turn over records to the state's campaign finance watchdog on Sunday.
The Fair Practices Political Commission has been conducting an unprecedented court battle for the records in its attempt to unmask the donors behind an $11-million contribution to two California campaigns this year. The commission wants the records to determine whether the nonprofit has improperly shielded the identity of its contributors.
Federal law allows nonprofits to keep the identities of their donors confidential. But California regulations say donors must be identified if they give to nonprofits with the intention of spending money on state campaigns here.
The Arizona nonprofit, Americans for Responsible Leadership, gave the $11 million to the conservative Small Business Action Committee, which is fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax-hike campaign and pushing a separate ballot measure to curb unions' political influence.
The donation has become one of the most controversial issues in this campaign, and Brown has repeatedly criticized the nonprofit during stump speeches.
There was no immediate response from the Arizona group on Sunday.
Americans for Responsible Leadership has accused the governor and Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the FPPC and a Brown appointee, of unfairly targeting the group for an audit. In a court filing, lawyers for the group said Ravel was conducting a "one-woman media onslaught, rabblerousing and prejudging, including 'tweeting' her incendiary view."
State authorities have been pushing for a quick audit before election day on Tuesday.
"This information is, by its very nature, only relevant before the election," the state's filing says.
Photo: Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye during a California Supreme Court session last year. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press