State lawmakers are moving to curb anonymous political donations in California after a national election in which nonprofit groups secretly poured hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns. Legislators have proposed greater disclosure by donors, higher fines for violations and new powers for officials to investigate suspicious contributions to certain groups. Other measures would boost disclosure requirements for political advertising and campaign websites.
The moves were prompted largely by an Arizona group’s $11-million donation this year to a California campaign committee, which used the money to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike measure and support another ballot initiative that was intended to curb unions’ political fundraising.
State election officials sued the Arizona group to determine the identities of the contributors — only to discover that the money had come from two other nonprofits, which under federal law are not required to reveal their donors. State law requires groups to identify only donors who gave money specifically for political purposes.
Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, said new legislation is necessary to update the Political Reform Act, the Watergate-era law that governs campaign finance in the state.