The has announced that two 501(c)(4) groups with ties to the Koch brothers have agreed to pay a record $1 million fine for campaign finance law violations during the 2012 election.
The Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) and Americans for Responsible Leadership, which belong to a network of "dark money" nonprofits operated by billionaire businessmen and philanthropists Charles and David Koch, have acknowledged contributing $15 million to campaigns for Proposition 11, a California ballot initiative to limit the ability of labor unions to raise political cash, and against Proposition 30, a tax increase, without properly reporting the source of the funds. California law requires that CPPR's $4.08 million contribution to the California Future Fund, made through the as an intermediary, and an $11 million contribution to the , made through ARL, be turned over to the state's general fund.
In a statement, a Koch representative denied that the brothers had played a role in the California election. "We had no involvement whatsoever, financial or otherwise, neither directly nor indirectly, on anything to do with Prop 30 or Prop 11," said Rob Tappan, who represents the Koch brothers, their foundations, and the Koch Industries companies. "In addition, we did not give directly or indirectly to any nonprofit group in support or defeat of these ballot initiatives."
Representatives for the two Arizona groups told the that they had simply made a reporting mistake. "It was a good-faith error," said Barrett Marson of Americans for Responsible Leadership. "There was no intent to skirt or deceive California officials."
"Almost $29 million was given by donors who chose not to stand up for their political views but instead wanted to influence elections but hide from public view," said FPPC chair Ann Ravel at a press conference Thursday. According to the Bee, a partially redacted donors list provided by the FPPC includes names that suggest prominent business leaders and wealthy families as well as trade groups in California that have supported efforts to weaken the influence of unions in the past.
"This case highlights the nationwide scourge of dark money nonprofit networks hiding the identities of their contributors," said Ravel in a statement. "The FPPC is aggressively litigating to get disclosure and working on laws and regulations to put a stop to these practices in California."