Authorities racing the clock to identify Arizona donors


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With the election approaching, it’s unclear whether California’s campaign finance watchdog will be able to unmask the donors behind a controversial Arizona nonprofit before voters cast their ballots next week.

A state judge is expected Wednesday to finalize her decision forcing the nonprofit to turn over records to authorities, and the Fair Practices Political Commission wants the information by Thursday afternoon.


But the Arizona group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, will probably appeal the order, leading to more legal wrangling.

“We believe that the state has not proven its case and that the FPPC does not have the authority to issue an audit in advance of the election,” said Matt Ross, a spokesman for the group’s lawyers.

Earlier this month Americans for Responsible Leadership gave $11 million to the conservative Small Business Action Committee, which is fighting Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike campaign and pushing another ballot measure to curb unions’ political influence.

If the commission does get the records, it will need to review them to determine whether the nonprofit has improperly shielded the identities of its donors. California regulations say donors must be identified if they gave to nonprofits with the intention of spending money on state campaigns here.

Ann Ravel, the commission’s chairwoman, said authorities would be reviewing any records they get as quickly as possible. If the nonprofit “failed to comply with California law, we will require them to file an amended form describing the names of all their donors,” she said.



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Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown (center) is surrounded by students during a rally at Cal State L.A. on Tuesday. His tax-hike proposition would help raise funds for education.Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times