PHOENIX — An Arizona group that has funneled more than $1.1 million to defeat two Arizona initiatives was sued Thursday by California authorities to disclose the source of its donors.
In a lawsuit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, the Fair Political Practices Commission says Americans for Responsible Leadership, set up as a nonprofit corporation, gave $11 million to fund two separate ballot campaigns in that state. What’s missing, according to the legal papers, is any disclosure of where the group, which list 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 provide a peek at who is also behind the $750,000 donation to the campaign against Proposition 204, making it the largest single source of cash against the bid to create a permanent 1-cent surcharge on the state sales tax. The same organization also has kicked in $415,000 to defeat Proposition 121 that would create an open primary system for all Arizona elections.
Matt Roberts, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Bennett, said that, unlike California, the failure to disclose the origins of the cash for Arizona ballot measures does not violate this state’s campaign finance laws.
“Time is of the essence,’’ attorneys for the California commission told the judge there, with the election in less than two weeks.
But 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 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.