SAN FRANCISCO — California’s highest court ordered an Arizona group on Sunday to disclose the donors behind an $11 million contribution to two California campaigns last month, but it remained to be seen whether voters will know the source of the money before Election Day.
Attorney General Kamala Harris and the state’s campaign finance watchdog had been seeking the donation records to determine whether Americans for Responsible Leadership is improperly shielding its donors’ identities.
The group gave money in October to a California-based political action committee that is campaigning against Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative and another initiative that would limit the ability of unions to raise money for political causes.
The group fought to withhold the documents and tried last week to appeal a Sacramento County Superior Court ruling that it must submit to an audit by the California Fair Political Practices Commission by 5 p.m. Thursday.
Harris’ office filed a motion late Friday asking the California Supreme Court to take up the case immediately, arguing that the information the FPPC is seeking is only relevant before Tuesday’s election. The court made its unanimous decision Sunday afternoon following a conference call and directed the Phoenix-based nonprofit to comply with the FPPC’s audit request by 4 p.m.
However, the group asked for a deadline extension so it could seek a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, FPPC chairwoman Ann Ravel said. She said the court denied the request and ordered the group to produce the documents immediately.
She said she believes the group has exhausted all legal avenues.
“My staff will be working all night to look at the documents and determine if they come within California (campaign) disclosure laws,” Ravel said.
A call seeking comments from the group’s spokesman was not immediately returned.
Harris called the group’s action “outrageous” and “a clear act of desperation.”
“They’re trying to delay and run the clock on this so that California voters will be in the dark about who has tried to manipulate their opinions,” Harris said.
Federal law allows nonprofits to keep the identities of their donors confidential. But California regulations require donors to be identified if they give to nonprofits with the intention of spending money on state campaigns here.