Two Arizona-based groups fined US$1m for illegal political contributions
Two Arizona-based political organisations agreed to pay US$1 million to settle claims they violated California's campaign-finance laws when they donated US$15 million to conservative causes in the 2012 election.
The two groups "operated as part of the 'Koch Brothers' Network' of dark money political nonprofit corporations", the state's Fair Political Practices Commission said on Thursday in a statement.
The Centre to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership, both based in Phoenix, admitted to making unlawful intermediary contributions, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a separate statement. There was no evidence of knowing or wilful illegal acts and the state won't pursue criminal charges, Harris said.
The Centre to Protect Patient Rights is led by Sean Noble, a Republican consultant with ties to billionaire energy executives Charles and David Koch. The group received about US$25 million last year from Americans for Job Security, a Virginia-based nonprofit opposed to tax increases, according to Harris' statement. CPPR in turn funneled the money through ARL and other intermediaries to two California campaign committees, Harris said.
"This case demonstrates in clear terms that California's campaign finance laws are in desperate need of reform," Harris said in the statement. "California law currently contains a loophole for certain groups to evade transparency by maintaining the anonymity of their donors."
The donations went to a campaign supporting an unsuccessful California ballot measure that would have prohibited the use of union payroll deductions for political purposes. The money also went to a campaign opposed to a successful ballot measure to temporarily raise income taxes for Californians making more than US$250,000 a year to increase education funding.