California judge to rule on disclosure by ‘dark money’ group Americans for Responsible Leadership

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The L.A. Times reports that a state judge in Sacramento appears ready to side with California's
campaign finance watchdog in its effort to unmask the donors behind the
Arizona nonprofit that donated $11 million to state campaigns earlier
this month. Judge clearing path for campaign finance probe into Arizona group:

The judge issued a tentative ruling in the case Tuesday afternoon,
one day before lawyers for the state and the Arizona nonprofit are
scheduled to face off in court.

In the ruling, Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang said the
Fair Political Practices Commission can demand a variety of records to
show whether the nonprofit was improperly shielding its donors'
identities
.

Chang did not say whether the nonprofit, Americans for Responsible
Leadership, will eventually have to publicly disclose who its donors
are. California regulations say donors must be identified if they gave
to
nonprofits with the intention of spending money on state campaigns here.

* * *

Without conducting an audit of the nonprofit, Chang said, Californians
could suffer "irreparable harm" because voters may not get information
critical to deciding how to vote on those issues.

In a follow-up report today, the L.A. Times reports Authorities racing the clock to identify Arizona donors:

With the election approaching, it’s unclear whether California’s
campaign finance watchdog will be able to unmask the donors behind a
controversial Arizona nonprofit before voters cast their ballots next
week.

A state judge is expected Wednesday to finalize her decision forcing
the nonprofit to turn over records to authorities, and the Fair
Practices Political Commission wants the information by Thursday
afternoon.

But the Arizona group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, will probably appeal the order, leading to more legal wrangling.

* * *

If the commission does get the records, it will need to review them
to determine whether the nonprofit has improperly shielded the
identities of its donors. California regulations say donors must be
identified if they gave to nonprofits with the intention of spending
money on state campaigns here.

Ann Ravel, the commission’s chairwoman, said authorities would be
reviewing any records they get as quickly as possible. If the nonprofit
“failed to comply with California law, we will require them to file an
amended form describing the names of all their donors,” she said.

The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today. The commission chairwoman Ann Ravel said the group is required to turn over documents to the commission by 4 p.m. today. That is highly unlikely to occur. I would expect a notice of appeal and motion for stay.

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