Attorneys representing Americans for Responsible Leadership -- an Arizona-based not-for-profit -- have filed a 14-page brief with the Sacramento Superior Court that seeks to defend the group's constitutional rights by citing a ruling in a separate lawsuit, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Yamamura, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/29).
Last week, the state Fair Political Practices Commission filed a lawsuit to determine whether ARL illegally concealed the identity of donors who gave money to a group opposing Proposition 30.
Prop. 30 is a compromise tax hike plan developed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and supporters of the "Millionaires Tax" that would, among other things, increase the personal income tax on wealthy residents.
ARL facilitated the donation of $11 million to the Small Business Action Committee, which opposes Prop. 30. SBAC also supports Proposition 32, a campaign finance measure.
State regulations say that not-for-profits cannot conceal donors' identities if their contributions go toward state campaigns.
FPPC is asking the Sacramento Superior Court to require ARL to provide communications and transactions data between donors and the not-for-profit. According to FPPC, the agency last week asked ARL to provide the information, but the group did not supply the data (California Healthline, 10/26).
Details of ARL's Filing
In its filing, ARL argues that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a campaign speech lawsuit, shows "the indisputable notion that non-profit corporations have constitutional rights."
The group argues that FPPC does not have authority to audit the communications between donors and the not-for-profit until after the election and that the agency did not consult its commissioner before asking for the information.
The filing states that FPPC has never requested such information from at least eight other not-for-profits, including the American Cancer Society, which donated millions toward a tobacco tax initiative this year.
Ann Ravel -- an FPPC chair -- said she has authority under FPPC rules to act on her own between commission meetings. She added that post-election audit rules only apply to groups known as "recipient committees" that already are required to disclose donor information and are not considered not-for-profits.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang has agreed to delay a hearing on the FPPC lawsuit originally scheduled for Tuesday until Wednesday afternoon because of problems related to Hurricane Sandy.
Ravel said FPPC intends to file a response brief by Tuesday ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 10/29).