The Arizona nonprofit behind a controversial $11-million donation plans to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-ditch bid to avoid turning over records to California's campaign finance watchdog.
The California Supreme Court ordered the nonprofit to comply with an audit by 4 p.m. Sunday. Lawyers for the nonprofit asked for an extension, saying it was impossible from "a logistical perspective."
That request was denied by the state justices, and the nonprofit's lawyers filed another letter outlining its plan to continue appealing the case.
In the letter, San Francisco attorney Thad Davis said the case raises "novel and pressing issues" that need a full vetting before the nonprofit can be forced to turn over records.
Davis wrote that the case "raises 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."
State authorities accused the nonprofit of trying to drag out the legal proceedings.
“It is outrageous that they are purposely and continuously trying to bypass the rules,” said California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris. “This is an effort to obstruct the process and run out the clock.”
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 Fair Practices Political Commission is trying to audit the nonprofit to see if it is improperly shielding its donors identities.
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.
Photo: Jason Torchinsky, an attorney for Americans for Responsible Leadership, argues against a campaign finance audit on Wednesday in Superior Court in Sacramento. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press