Campaign pays state $300,000, a fraction of ‘dark money’ received

Voters mark their ballots at Super Suds laundromat polling place in Long Beach in 2012. A campaign committee on Friday paid $300,000 to the state toward disgorgement of $11 million in "dark money" contributions it allegedly received to affect the election.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO – A campaign committee has admitted responsibility for receiving $11 million in “dark money” contributions during the 2012 election but has paid only $300,000 of the funds to the state, all that it says is available.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission announced Friday it has reached agreements with two campaign committees -- the California Future Fund and the Small Business Action Committee — in which they agree to disgorge $4 million and $11 million, respectively, if they ever get the money. The amounts represent the money they received in 2012 from a pair of Arizona nonprofit groups.

But on Friday only the Small Business Action Committee wrote an initial check to the state general fund, and only for $300,000.

“Recovering an initial $300,000 is a win for Californians and for campaign finance disclosure,” said Gary Winuk, chief of enforcement for the state commission. “This case had unique circumstances because it involved two of the largest campaign contributions ever made in California.”

Winuk said the Small Business Action Committee and California Future Fund did not break the law.


But two Arizona nonprofit groups had previously paid $1 million in fines for their role in hiding the source of political funds sent to the two campaign groups in California.

Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, noted the investigations found his group had “done nothing wrong and were not aware of any violations by anyone else.”

“Even so, as a result of an obscure law, the FPPC was required to seek a judgment for disgorgement,” Fox added.

He said the political committee will be closed and will not make any more payments to the state towards the $11 million. The other committee also has been disbanded.

The money sent from Arizona went to fight Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012 ballot measure to increase taxes, which was passed by the voters, and to promote a measure aimed at reducing the influence of unions, which was defeated.

Money was originally sent to the Phoenix nonprofit Center to Protect Patient Rights, which is run by a political consultant tied to billionaire Republican contributors Charles and David Koch. Funds went to the campaign committees, which spent the money on political advertising.

Winuk said the two campaign committees agreed that any future funds they receive will go toward the judgment.


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