Americans for Responsible Leadership – a Koch brothers ‘dark money’ front group

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

On Friday, Howard Fischer reported that the "dark money" organization Americans for Responsible Leadership, an Arizona 501(c)(4) that has funneled more than $1.1 million to defeat two Arizona ballot initiatives (Props. 121, 204), was sued Thursday by California authorities to force disclosure of who gave $11 million to fund two separate ballot campaigns in California. Calif. suit targets anti-initiative group:

What's missing, according to the legal papers, is any disclosure of where the group, which listed a Phoenix post office box as its address, is getting its money.

The California commission wants a judge to force the organization to provide that information.

If the lawsuit is successful, it could also provide a peek at who is behind the $750,000 donation to the campaign against Proposition 204, making it the largest single source of money opposing the bid to create a permanent 1-cent-per-dollar surcharge on the state sales tax.

The same organization also gave $415,000 to defeat Proposition 121, which would create an open primary system for all Arizona elections.

Matt Roberts, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Bennett, said unlike in California, the failure to disclose the donors for Arizona ballot measures does not violate this state's campaign finance laws.

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[A] lawyer for Americans for Responsible Leadership is fighting the move, saying the demand for the information is premature at best. Attorney Brad Benbrook already has succeeded in pushing the court hearing back until Tuesday.

The organization's $11 million went to the Small Business Action Committee PAC two weeks ago.

That group opposes California's Proposition 30, a measure being pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a temporary income tax hike on those earning more than $250,000 a year along with a quarter-cent sales tax. It also supports Proposition 32 to ban corporate and labor donations to candidates.

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Papers filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission list Robert Graham and Eric Wnuck as incorporators.

Graham owns RG Capital, a Scottsdale-based investment advisory firm. He also is trying to become the new chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.

Wnuck was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress.

State Treasurer Doug Ducey, who is heading the anti-204 effort, said the current board also includes Kirk Adams, the former speaker of the Arizona House and, like Wnuck, an unsuccessful congressional candidate.

Ducey dismissed questions of whether Arizona voters are entitled to know who provided the $750,000 to his campaign. He said all he and the voters need to know is that the cash came from Americans for Responsible Leadership.

"If you want more detailed information beyond that, that really is a question for Americans for Responsible Leadership," Ducey said.

The Yellow Sheet Report (subscription required) added more intrigue on Friday in a post entitled "Prime Suspect":

When Americans for Responsible Leadership dramatically increased the amount of money it has poured into political campaigns several weeks ago, local political observers began trying like mad to piece together where the money is coming from. When Bloomberg last week highlighted a group run by GOP consultant Sean Noble that raised more than $62 million in untraceable money in 2010 (LINK), many railbirds put his name at the top of the list.

Noble’s group, Center to Protect Patient Rights, gave more than half of its money to politically active groups like the American Future Fund and Americans for Tax Reform. Throw in the fact that Adams, a Noble client, recently joined the group as its president – immediately before it began throwing around huge sums of money – and that was enough for Associated General Contractors head David Martin to conclude that the group was likely funneling money to ARL, too. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” he said.

One GOP consultant said Noble’s company, DC-London, is also heavily involved in the efforts to defeat Props 121 and 204. “I think he’s involved in [ARL]. I think it’s a little too coincidental that Noble’s people are running the anti-121 and 204 campaigns,” the source said. Adams last week told our reporter that he wouldn’t say whether Noble’s group was or wasn’t a contributor to ARL. “I wish I could help you put out a fire,” he said, adding only that ARL has received “significant contributions from several different groups” both within and outside Arizona.

I have previously posted about Sean Noble and his Center to Protect Patients Rights. The state of Maricopa appears to be the hub of the wingnut operations of the Koch brothers:

I posted about the Koch brothers' front group Protect Patient Rights a couple of weeks ago. Koch is a cancer in the American body politic:

McClatchy News has the latest reporting on the billionaire bastard Koch brothers, who are a cancer in the American body politic. Center's activities provide glimpse into network of conservative advocacy groups | McClatchy:

Evil-FBThe financial firepower that fueled the rise of a network of conservative advocacy groups now pummeling Democrats with television ads can be traced, in part, to Box 72465 in the Boulder Hills post office, on a desert road on the northern outskirts of Phoenix.

That's the address for the Center to Protect Patient Rights, an organization with ties to Charles and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankroll a number of conservative organizations.

During the 2010 midterm election, the center sent more than $55 million to 26 GOP-allied groups, tax filings show, funding opaque outfits such as American Future Fund, 60 Plus and Americans for Job Security that were behind a coordinated campaign against Democratic congressional candidates.

Well, it turns out that this Protect Patients’ Rights front group at "Box 72465 in the Boulder Hills post office, on a desert road on the northern outskirts of Phoenix," is also behind the GOP voter suppression efforts in Florida. Republic Report reveals Florida Official Behind Gov. Rick Scott’s Voter Purge Linked To $1 Billion Campaign Effort Against Obama:

Just before Kurt Browning was selected in 2011 by Scott as Secretary of State, Browning led a group called “Protect Your Vote Inc.,” which was set up to oppose fair redistricting. One of the biggest checks to Browning’s organization came from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which gave $100,000 in 2010. At the time of the donation, the source of the money was shrouded in secrecy.

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But as Republic Report exclusively reported last month, the Center to Protect Patient Rights is part of a universe of front groups financed by David and Charles Koch, the petrochemical billionaires, as well as several other billionaires, as part of an election-influencing effort. New reports this week about the brothers’ strategy indicate that they will now use this constellation of front groups to finance $400 million of a $1 billion campaign in outside money to defeat President Obama and congressional Democrats. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mitt Romney’s Super PAC, and several nonprofits controlled by Karl Rove, will furnish the other $600 million.

The earlier Republic Report revealed Koch Operative Steered $55 Million To Front Groups Airing Ads Against Democrats; Ads Assailed Candidates Over Abortion, 9/11, Medicare:

Sean Noble, a Republican consultant, was hired to help administer the Koch war chest. According to Politico, Noble was part of a group of GOP operatives who met regularly with Karl Rove’s Super PAC to target 120 House of Representatives races in 2010.

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Yesterday afternoon, OpenSecrets.org bloggers Viveca Novak and Robert Maguire were the first to flag a tax form filed by an obscure Arizona-based foundation called the Center to Protect Patient Rights, noting the foundation gave huge amounts almost exclusively to conservative groups that use undisclosed nonprofits to air partisan ads. The Center acted as a pass-through to distribute $44,599,946 in grants in 2010, and $10,783,500 the year before. Novak and Maguire also reported that the Center’s tax forms were prepared by at least one employee of the DCI Group, a lobbying business.

Though the document does not reveal where the Center receives its funds, the tax forms available online from 2009 and 2010 indicate that Sean Noble, Koch’s campaign commercial operative, managed the foundation. Heather Higgins, a presenter at the infamous Koch mega-fundraisers, served on the board for part of 2009. The Center paid Noble’s firm a total of $350,000 a year in lobbying and “management services.” In turn, it appears, Noble played a significant role in fueling the most aggressive advertising campaign in the history of midterm elections.

In all, Koch operative Sean Noble channeled grants to two dozen 501(c)4 nonprofits.

The McClatchy News follow-up report added Center's activities provide glimpse into network of conservative advocacy groups | McClatchy:

The Kochs have several ties to the center. It is run by Sean Noble, a Phoenix-based GOP consultant who is a key operative in the Kochs' political activities, as first noted by the investigative blog Republic Report. One of the center's original directors, Heather Higgins, is chairwoman of the Independent Women's Forum, which has received funding from a Koch-controlled foundation.

And Cheryl Hillen, a Connecticut-based consultant who raised $2.6 million for the center, was director of fundraising for the Koch-backed Citizens for a Sound Economy.

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The center was largely used as a vehicle to pass millions to other organizations, which also zealously guard the anonymity of their donors. Some campaign finance experts suggested the center could have been set up to pool money from various sources.

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Noble did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails. Courtney Koshar, a Phoenix anesthesiologist and the organization's only other director, did not respond to requests for comment. And a Phoenix doctor who once sat on its board said he couldn't remember who asked him to join.

"I honestly played very little role," said Dr. Eric Novack, who headed an organization called the US Health Freedom Coalition that received nearly its entire budget – $1.7 million – from the center to help pass a state ballot measure that aimed to block Obama's health care overhaul.

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The center's influence extended beyond the health care debate, tax filings show. Money also went to anti-abortion groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List and to Americans for Tax Reform, led by Grover Norquist. In Florida, the center backed Protect Your Vote, a Republican effort to defeat two redistricting measures.

The largest share of the center's money went to American Future Fund, a Des Moines-based group started by onetime GOP congressional aide Nick Ryan. The fund, which ran campaigns against two dozen Democrats in the 2010 election cycle, spent $23 million that period, tax filings show, with nearly $13 million coming from the center.

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The center appears closely linked with DCI Group, a Washington-based consulting firm that specializes in under-the-radar corporate campaigns.

All of these organizations operate in Arizona. Sean Noble and Dr. Eric Novak are familiar GOP operatives in Arizona.

It seems like a safe bet the billionaire bastard Koch brothers are the bundlers for their rich friends behind the "dark money" being funneled into campaigns through their 501(c)(4) front groups to avoid disclosure.

One response to “Americans for Responsible Leadership – a Koch brothers ‘dark money’ front group

  1. Graham and Wnuck weren’t incorporators of ARL — they were directors. The incorporator was a woman named Christine Wells (iirc), a staffer for Holtzman Vogel Josefiak in Warrenton, VA, counsel for American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity.