Friday, October 26, 2012
FPPC Sues Over Donation, Hearing Set for Tuesday
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
California’s campaign watchdog agency has filed a lawsuit seeking to force an Arizona nonprofit to reveal the source of the group’s $11 million contribution to a political action committee that is active in the November election.
The lawsuit filed yesterday in Sacramento Superior Court says Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership has refused to comply with an audit request by the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The Small Business Action Committee PAC received the $11 million contribution last week. The group is campaigning against Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative and in favor of a separate initiative that would erode union political power in California.
The agency, which was urged to conduct an immediate investigation last week by Common Cause, is asking a judge to compel the Arizona group to answer audit questions immediately or be held in contempt of court.
The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert blog reported late yesterday that Judge Barry Loncke had set a hearing for Tuesday.
After a brief hearing in a packed courtroom yesterday, the asked both sides to submit court filings by Monday, saying the court needed more time to consider whether Americans for Responsible Leadership must provide records, the blog reported.
State attorneys argued that a quick court decision is necessary because voters need ample donor information as they weigh choices on the November ballot. FPPC enforcement officer Gary Winuk said the group’s name tells voters nothing about its purpose, and he noted that California voters are already submitting ballots by mail without enough information.
“Each day brings more potential public harm for each day we’re not able to inspect the record,” Winuk said.
But Americans for Responsible Leadership attorney Bradley Benbrook asserted that the FPPC is overstepping its powers and does not have audit authority until after an election. He suggested the FPPC had already concluded the group had violated state campaign finance laws and was possibly violating confidentiality requirements by speaking to the media.
“They’ve already decided,” the blog quoted Benbrook as saying of the FPPC. “This group has First Amendment rights, and the First Amendment rights can only be interfered with if the rules are very clear that the FPPC has this authority.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company