California election watchdog does what Arizona legislature refuses to do to protect its own GOP operatives

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Earlier this month, Cronkite News reported No state law on 'dark money' coming this legislative session:

For all of the controversy during the last election over the
influence of so-called dark money in politics, the Arizona State
Legislature is unlikely to produce any laws on the subject this session.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, introduced the only bill
addressing dark money, one that would have increased disclosure
requirements for groups making such donations, but it didn’t receive a
hearing.

Farley said that the “future of our democracy” depends on citizens
knowing who is funding campaigns, something that certain corporations
can keep secret because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.

“I just think that we owe it to our voters to do everything we can to
reveal as much as we can about where it comes from,” he said during a
recent Senate Elections Committee session on Citizens United.

Farley’s bill would have required an individual or organization
contributing money that came from another source to disclose that source
to the recipient, as well as whether the money passed through any other
intermediaries.

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, said that the
Supreme Court’s decision makes it difficult for governments to beef up
disclosure requirements.

“It’s just one of those things that’s really easy to say, ‘Well, we
want to see where money’s coming from,’ but we have to figure out a
legal way to craft it so that we are not in violation of a Supreme Court
ruling,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s important to craft it
right and not end up in court.”

[That is a laugh line — everything the Arizona legislature does winds up in court.]

* * *

Fred Solop, a professor of politics and international affairs at
Northern Arizona University, said that the obstacles standing in the way
of tougher disclosure laws may not solely be of the legal variety.

“Legislators don’t want to appear too harsh forcing disclosure from
entities that may consider funding them down the road,” he said. “There
is a political issue in the reality of the role that money plays in
politics.”

This is an ethical and moral failure of our Secretary of State Ken "Birther" Bennett, and of Senate Elections Commiittee Chairwoman Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, who dreams of being our next Secretary of State. It's not that they can't pass meaningful campaign finance disclosure legislation, it's that they won't because of who is involved. As I previously posted, Americans for Responsible Leadership – a Koch brothers 'dark money' front group:

On Friday, Howard Fischer reported Calif. suit targets anti-initiative group:

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.

* * *

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. [He is now Chair.]

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.

* * *

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.

The California election watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, is doing what the Arizona legislature refuses to do to protect its own GOP operatives. Huffington Post reports, California Officials Turn Up The Heat On Secretive ‘Dark Money’ Groups:

California officials have widened an investigation into the source of
$11 million that was mysteriously funnelled by a few nonprofit groups
in 2012 to sway two ballot measures in the state, The Huffington Post
has learned.

The state’s election watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices
Commission, which launched the inquiry last November, is working closely
with the California attorney general’s office, according to a person
familiar with the matter. They have issued about a dozen new subpoenas
to individuals and organizations for financial records, according to the
person, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak
publicly about the probe.

The latest round of subpoenas represents a major development in the
investigation
and comes on top of several subpoenas previously sent to
the California PAC that spent the $11 million and three nonprofit groups
that are not required to reveal their donors, including one with ties
to the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

The inquiry was sparked because of a California law requiring
contributors to state initiatives be publicly disclosed. Investigators
are reviewing how these nonprofit groups were used to shield the
identities of donors and attempting to trace the original funding
sources. Gary Winuk, a spokesman for the commission, declined to
comment, as did Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s
office.

* * *

The California investigation into the mysterious origins of the $11
million spent on two ballot initiatives there seems to be generating the
most heat. When it launched the probe in November, the state’s Fair
Political Practices Commission called the donation the “largest
contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California
history.”

The controversy erupted shortly before Election Day when a state PAC,
the Small Business Action Committee, reported spending $11 million on
two ballot measures. One was aimed at fighting a tax hike backed by Gov.
Jerry Brown (D), while the other would have curbed union spending on
elections.

In its reports to the state, the PAC revealed only that the funds had
arrived in mid-October from Americans for Responsible Leadership, a
2-year-old dark money outfit based in Arizona that had never before been
involved in California elections.

Seeking to pierce the funding veil, the commission took the matter to
the California Supreme Court, which ordered Americans for Responsible
Leadership to disclose where the funds originated. In response, the
Arizona group pointed the finger at a Virginia-based nonprofit,
Americans for Job Security
— which spent close to $16 million to help
GOP candidates including Mitt Romney last year — as the source.

In a further twist, AJS had channeled the funds to a group called the
Center to Protect Patient Rights, which is run by Sean Noble, a
well-known Koch operative.
The center then handed the $11 million over
to Americans for Responsible Leadership. (Despite their under-the-radar
spending drive, the groups failed to block the ballot measure hiking
taxes, or to pass the one curbing union spending.)

The involvement of Noble’s group in the California funding chain seems
representative of the role it has played in the last two elections.
Since its creation in 2009, the center has been a conservative cash
conduit with very deep pockets.
During the 2010 elections, it funneled
almost $55 million to two-dozen other dark money outfits, including the
American Future Fund, Americans for Tax Reform and Americans for Job
Security.

Jason Torchinsky, a Washington election lawyer who has represented
the Small Business Action Committee, Americans for Responsible
Leadership, the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Job
Security, declined to comment. Jan Baran, a veteran election law
specialist with the firm Wiley Rein, who had not previously been
identified as involved in the case, said he also has a client who is
party to the matter, but declined to comment or identify the client.

Rob Tappan, a spokesman for Koch Industries, the energy conglomerate
controlled by the billionaire brothers, stated that the Kochs “were not
involved with the issue in any way, shape or form,” referring to the
initiative that would have curbed union spending. Asked whether the Koch
brothers, the company or any of its consultants had any role in funding
the fight against the tax hike initiative, Tappan did not respond.

Likewise, Tappan declined to say whether the company, the Kochs or
Americans for Prosperity
, a large dark money group they help fund, had
received a subpoena in the California investigation.

Ann Ravel, who runs the state commission, said last fall that the
four groups initially identified in the investigation “are the ones we
know exist. But it does not preclude our ability to investigate others
we come across.”

The three nonprofits that funneled the funds to the Small Business
Action Committee could face fines reportedly totalling $33 million. The
California attorney general's office is looking at potential criminal
violations.

California is doing the investigation that the Arizona Attorney General, Arizona Secretary of State, the oversight committees of the Arizona legislature, and Arizona's political media should be doing, but they are all too busy protecting GOP political operatives from investigation and prosecution.

0 responses to “California election watchdog does what Arizona legislature refuses to do to protect its own GOP operatives

  1. I agree that breaking any law is a crime of one degree or another. Calling it money laundering instead of campaign finance violation seems to be using more impactful terms but doesn’t change the nature of the laws being broken. Could you tell me why it is that I should be concerned about people violating money laundering laws?

  2. Money laundering is a felony crime. But of course you are not concerned.

  3. Eh. To this looks to me like a case where if one side can’t win on the issues it wants to win by goading on the regulators and the legislators. Only in Arizona the regulators and the legislators don’t feel like it is worth time and money to pursue investigations. I can’t say as if I am going to cry because person X or corporation Y managed to spend money to push their opinion on any given candidate or proposition. In the end the voters are fully able to inform themselves about any given issue or candidate. If they don’t want to support a given proposition no amount of (spooky) dark money advertising is going to change their opinion.

    http://www.freespeechweek.org/