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UPDATE: Groups behind anti-Prop 30 donation revealed

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks in support of Prop. 30 at a rally of UCLA students on campus, Oct. 16, 2012
California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks in support of Prop. 30 at a rally of UCLA students on campus, Oct. 16, 2012
Sharon McNary/KPCC

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UPDATE 5:43 p.m.: After giving up an intense legal battle, the Arizona-based group Americans for Responsible Leadership has revealed the sources behind an $11 million donation it made to a campaign involved with two hot-button propositions on Tuesday's ballot.

California's Fair Political Practices Commission, which has been seeking the identity of the donors, says the money came from Virginia-based Americans for Job Security, through a second intermediary, the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights.

The FPPC is characterizing the tangled donation as a form of money laundering.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris says further investigation is “absolutely necessary”  to unearth any possible violations of civil or criminal laws.   

"It’s a bit outrageous for folks who are out of state to pour $11 million into California with the intent of manipulating the outcome," Harris said.

In a letter to the FPPC, an attorney for Americans for Responsible Leadership said neither that organization, nor the Center to Protect Patient Rights, admit any wrongdoing.

Matt Ross, a spokesman for Americans for Responsible Leadership, told KPCC: "State law allows intermediaries to provide funding from one group to another group.  We merely served as that intermediary."  

The FPPC has been citing California’s Political Reform Act of 1974, which requires a nonprofit to disclose the names of its donors, if those donors knew the money would be spent on a particular campaign.

Americans for Job Security is described on its website as a “pro-business issue advocacy organization in America.” Its president is Stephen DeMaura, a former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

An online search reveals that Americans for Job Security shares an address in Alexandria with Crossroads Media, which is a top media buyer for Republican candidates and causes. Its clients include American Crossroads, a political action committee co-founded by Karl Rove.

The Fair Political Practices Commission decided to settle with Americans For Responsible Leadership late Sunday night. FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel said the commission agreed to accept information about the donors in lieu of documents about the $11-million dollar donation.

"The importance of this information to the public prior to the election outweighed any desire that we might have to comb through their documents at [this] time," Ravel said. 

Last month, Americans for Responsible Leadership contributed $11 million to the Small Business Action Committee, a Sacramento-based group involved in campaigns to defeat Prop 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, and to pass Prop 32, a ban on union payroll deductions for political contributions. 

The Small Business Action Committee released a statement Monday, saying it "had no knowledge that the contribution was from an intermediary ... Based on new information received this morning from the FPPC, SBAC PAC immediately amended its disclosure reports accordingly."

As of Oct. 20th, the Small Business Action Committee had spent more than $54 million on its proposition campaigns.

PREVIOUSLY: The announcement follows a weekend of intense legal wrangling.  The California Supreme Court issued a rare Sunday ruling, ordering an Arizona nonprofit group to submit to an audit with the intent of revealing who donated the money to a campaign involved with two hot-button propositions on Tuesday's ballot.

The California justices voted 7-0 and ordered Americans for Responsible Leadership to immediately provide documents to the state's elections watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission.

However, attorneys for the Phoenix-based group said they were taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They withdrew the request late Sunday.

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