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Why Arizona's "Secret" $11 Million Donor Opposing 2 Crucial Ballot Measures in California Is Really No Secret

The secret donation's defender in court has deep ties to top Republican circles.
 
 
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Is there really any doubt who’s behind $11 million donation to an Arizona non-profit that’s taking an active role in opposing Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, and also backing another measure that would complicate how California unions collect dues from members for political purposes, Propositon 32?

California’s state campaign finance regulatory agency, The Fair Political Practices Commission, has sued the obscure Arizona group that made the donation, Americans for Responsible Leadership on Thursday, demanding the group provide e-mails, documents and financial records to show how it raised its $11 million.

In a court hearing on Thursday, Bradley Benbrook, a Sacramento attorney representing the group said the FPPC was overstepping its authority to force disclosure. The FPPC’s lawyer  countered that the group’s tactics was harming the public because early voting has started and “we’re not able to inspect the record.”

On Tuesday, a California state court judge said she believed that the FPPC has the power to order the group to disclose its donors. That hearing is slated to continue Wednesday.

But is there any doubt who is behind what’s called the biggest donation in state history? Does it matter if the donors are named or if the monied interests are glaringly obvious?

A quick Internet search of the group’s California-based attorney, Bradley Benbook, tells anybody that the money is coming from high up in Republican Party circles, because he is a partisan Republican with deep ties to George W. Bush’s White House. It’s only people on both sides of the aisle with partisan connections who do this work.

Mr. Benbook is on the board of directors of the Sacramento Valley Lincoln Club. As its website says, it was “established in 1974 as a State and Federal Political Action Committee. Our organization exists to promote and support Republican candidates and causes at the state, local and federal levels.  The Lincoln Club offers members the opportunity to get involved in the promotion and election of Republican candidates and the passage of ballot initiatives consistent with Republican principles.”

And what might those Republican principles be? The website say, they include

• Contributing directly to the campaigns of Republican candidates;

• Hosting events designed to increase exposure for Republican candidates;

• Recruiting and training Republican candidates;

• Promoting essential party-building activities such as voter registration; and

• Promoting initiatives consistent with Republican principles of lower taxes, less regulation, and less government interference with personal and business freedoms. 

So, supporting “lower taxes” and “business freedoms” obviously translates into opposing Gov. Brown’s initiative to raise taxes to pay for schools and other public services. And it also translates into supporting another measure to undermine union political power.

Benbook’s bio on the Lincoln Club website touts his political experience, saying, in addition to civil and business litigation that “he has handled a number of civil suits under the California Political Reform Act… [and] served on President Bush’s Judicial Selection Advisory Panel for the Eastern District of California.”

The actual donors behind the $11 million will have a left a legal labyrinth for the FPPC to untangle if they are typical of the political money shell games unsed in 2012. Take a look at this incredible report by the Center for Public Integrity in Washington that traces how another million-dollar-plus cash infusion was laundered and ended up in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race—helping the incumbent Republican.

The legal dance unfolding in a Sacramento courtroom over the specific source of the mysterious $11 million may continue next week. But is there any doubt over the donor’s political agenda or financial interests? And shouldn’t that tell California voters all they need to know—if they don’t already know who opposes raising taxes and wants to undermine unions in the Golden State?