Common Cause California

California Common Cause Shines the Light on Dark Money Campaign Contributions

UPDATE 2013:  Take Action to end dark money contributions. Support SB 2,3, and 27: The Sunshine in Campaigns Act.


On October 19th, California Common Cause asked the Fair Political Practices Commission to take immediate action to protect the integrity of November’s election by investigating and exposing the secret, out-of-state interests who recently funneled $11 million to oppose Prop 30 and support Prop 32 in this November’s election.

“Secretive out-of-state interests are trying to manipulate California’s election with laundered money and the FPPC must shine the light on this shadowy group to determine who they are, where their money comes from and what their agenda is for California,” said Phillip Ung, policy advocate for California Common Cause.

An Arizona group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, recently laundered $11 million in campaign funding through the Small Business Action Committee PAC in what may be the largest secret political donation in California history. Americans for Responsible Leadership was incorporated through a law firm that counts among its clients Karl Rove’s Crossroads organizations, the Koch-funded Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity and the California Future Fund which recently spent $4 million to support the anti-union Prop 32. Rove and the Koch brothers have reportedly planned to spend $200 million and $400 million respectively to influence this November’s elections nationwide, and they’re notorious for using non-profit organizations to keep their spending secret.

“The $11 million contribution from a group which has previously never spent more than $500,000 on a political campaign raises 11 million red flags – and suggests that this group is only a shell organization whose primary purpose is to shield its donors from disclosure,” said Derek Cressman, vice president of state operations for Common Cause.

The FPPC passed regulations just this spring allowing them to investigate and even subpoena SBAC’s records and communications with these Arizona operatives in order to protect the integrity of California’s elections and ensure that Californians know who is behind the campaign to hurt our schools and skew our campaign finance systems in favor of corporations, billionaires, and SuperPACS.

The new regulations require a nonprofit who makes contributions to California candidates or ballot measures to identify its donors who made that contribution possible if the donors knew or should have known their money would be used for political purpose. The FPPC’s new rules state, in part, that “[a]n organization shall not knowingly conceal the name of a donor with the purpose of depriving the public of information to which it is entitled under the Act.” (Cal. Code. Regs., tit. 2, § 18412, emphasis added.)


Photo Credit:  Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press



Recent Updates:

Nov. 5, 2012 - FPPC Press Release:  Americans for Responsible Leadership Admits Campaign Money Laundering, Discloses $11 Million Donor 

Superior Court Ruling on October 31, 2012


Resources and Materials:

Letters from Americans for Responsible Leadership and The Center to Protect Patient Rights

Official Complaint Letter - October 19, 2012

Official Complaint Evidence - October 19, 2012

FPPC Fact Sheet on FPPC Regulation on Nonprofit Disclosure

FPPC Regulation on Nonprofit Disclosure (official language)


Press Releases:

Statement from Derek Cressman on Superior Court Decision on FPPC v. Americans for Responsible Leadership

CA Common Cause, LWV of CA, and FPPC Will Partner on Disclosure Legislation - October 31, 2012

CA Common Cause complaint leads to FPPC Investigation - October 25, 2012

CA Common Cause asks FPPC to Investigate and Expose Secret Out-of-State Campaign Donations - October 19, 2012


Media Coverage:

Nov. 2, 2012 - Legal Fight Continues in Arizona Group's Contributions to California Initiatives

Nov. 1, 2012 - Secret money targets 2 Arizona Propositions

Oct. 30, 2012 - Los Angeles Times Independent PACs top $17 million on California legislative races

Oct. 29, 2012 - LA Observed Shady Arizona political group invokes Citizens United

Oct. 26, 2012 – Los Angeles Times Independent spending pours into California congressional races

Oct. 25, 2012 – The Huffington Post Are Kock Brothers Behind $11 Million Gift to Prop. 32 Group? 

Oct. 25, 2012 – The Modesto Bee MORAIN: Can state ID mystery donors?

Oct. 25, 2012 – Los Angeles Times Keep secret Arizona Money out of California politics

Oct. 25, 2012 – Sacramento Bee Editorial: FPPC must unravel $11 million mystery

Oct. 25, 2012 – Los Angeles Times Keep secret Arizona Money out of California politics  

Oct. 25, 2012 – Sacramento Bee FPPC awaits group’s response on names of $11 million donors

Oct. 24, 2012 – Sacramento Bee Dan Morain: Can California unmask mystery donors? 

Oct. 24, 2012 – 89.3 KPCC CA Fair Political Practices Commission wants names of $11 million donors to Prop 30 and 32

Oct. 23, 2012 – Huffington Post The Subversion of Direct Democracy

Oct. 23, 2012 – San Diego 7 News: Prop Zero Mystery Money Invades California

Oct. 23, 2012 – Daily News Los Angeles Editorial: Secret Supporters – When Donors to Causes Hide in the Shadows

Oct. 22, 2012 – Fox and Hounds Mathews: Dumbest Donation Ever?  

Oct. 21, 2012 – Sacramento Bee Jerry Brown Accuses Anti-Tax Group of Illegal Money Laundering

Oct. 20, 2012 –Sacramento News 10 Complaint Alleges Groups Skirting State Campaign Law

Oct. 20, 2012 – San Francisco Chronicle Mysterious Contributions Draws Scrutiny
Oct. 20, 2012 – San Francisco Gate Group Seeks Audit of $11 Million Donation by Arizona Group
Oct. 20, 2012 – Los Angeles Times Jerry Brown to Secret Donors: Take your Mask Off

Oct. 20, 2012 – Los Angeles Times Identity of Donors to Conservative Group Sought

Oct. 19, 2012 – New York Times California: Donation Under Scrutiny