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Americans for Responsible Leadership Inquiry [Developing Story]

by Lillian Ewing, published

Americans for Responsible Leadership

Americans for Responsible Leadership

Developing Story - Third District Court of Appeals Denies Attorney General's request to reveal backers of Americans for Responsible Leadership. Arizona group can continue to obscure identity. Appeal to Supreme Court likely.

The group Americans for Responsible Leadership (“ARL”) defines itself as an organization that “seeks to promote the general welfare by educating the public on concepts that advance government accountability, transparency, ethics, and related public policy issues.”  It is actually a nonprofit campaign financing group based in Arizona that has used large sums of money to promote or denounce California propositions, although the majority of campaign contributions have primarily been for campaigns in Arizona. With regards to its allocation of funds for California ballot measures, ARL has donated millions of dollars in support of Proposition 32 and to criticize Proposition 30. $11 million was donated to “kill” Governor Jerry Brown’s tax increase in Proposition 30 and support the campaign finance measure of Prop. 32.  Further, the group’s website currently addresses California political issues with its denouncement of Proposition 14, which was approved by voters and created an “open primary” or “top two” election system in California.  With the massive amount of money spent by the group to affect California elections, the question posed is of the source of those funds. The question is an important one because California State law requires donors to be identified if they donate to nonprofits “with the intention of spending money on state campaigns here.”

The Superior Court Rules that Funding Must be Disclosed

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) is the California authority that regulates campaign financing and spending.  After investigating a complaint by a “good-government group” that initiated its audit of ARL, the FPPC submitted an application for a preliminary injunction in the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento. The purpose of the request is to order ARL to “immediately produce all records requested” to “ensure that ARL complied with applicable disclosure laws” that pertain to its funding in support of Proposition 32 and against Proposition 30.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyane W.L. Chang’s final ruling was in favor of FPPC. The Final Order states that “irreparable harm has occurred and continues to occur as each day passes and voters continue to cast their votes without information that may influence their votes.”  The finding of irreparable harm allowed for Judge Chang to issue a mandatory injunction for information about ALR’s funding, which is “rarely granted” and only permitted in “extreme cases.”  Judge Chang found the campaign funding by ALR to be a rare case necessitating the extreme legal order.  FPPC’s goal is to have all of the requested information about ARL funding prior to the November 6, 2012 elections so that voters can make informed decisions.  A spokesman for ARL has said that it will appeal the decision.

Editor's update --- The District Court of Appeals has rejected the application for the injunction. 

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