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An Expensive “Win”

The entire story would take too long to write, but anyone can go online and find the entire history.

For now, all you need to know is that two groups in Arizona gave approximately $15 million to two campaign committees in California during the 2012 elections.  One group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, is led by former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams.   The second group, The Center to Protect Patient Rights, is led by Arizona-based political consultant Sean Noble.

The contributions were what is being called ”dark money” because the original source is concealed.  These sorts of contributions are illegal in California, and the California Fair Political Practices Commission investigated these donations and the groups involved.  The result of the nearly year long investigation is a series of financial settlements whereby the groups involved will pay massive fines and the Commission will allow these groups to continue to conceal the original source of their funds.  Americans for Responsible Leadership and The Center to Protect Patient Rights will each pay $500,000 while the two California committees are being asked to pay nearly $15 million in penalties.

This entire situation illustrates a great many of the things that are wrong in today’s political system.  The media first identified the Koch brothers as being the primary source of funding, but later reports were that it was a group of donors, including Gap Chairman Bob Fisher, investor Charles Schwab and philanthropist Eli Broad.  In spite of the very public coverage of who the donors are, the groups involved may well pay more than $15 million to avoid having to confirm them publicly, or, if the media reports are wrong, to reveal who the actual donors are. The California Commission, whose responsibility it is to provide transparency to the voters of California, is essentially settling for hush money.  In exchange for millions of dollars that will flow back into California’s state coffers, the Commission will agree to not collect any meaningful information on who bankrolled the entire operation.

The individuals involved and the groups they operate may end up mattering a great deal to Arizona voters in 2014.  Sean Noble’s consulting group, DC London, ran Kirk Adams’ failed 2012 congressional campaign.  Today, Kirk Adams runs Prosper, an entirely separate nonprofit that has taken an interest in issues also near and dear to DC London’s clients.  And these groups are also rumored to be preparing a dark money campaign to help elect a slate of Republicans to statewide office in 2014.

In his remarks to the media after news of these huge fines broke, Kirk Adams declared” victory” in the matter.  It is fair to say that Adams hasn’t “won” this big since he got thumped by now-Congressman Matt Salmon in the 2012 GOP primary.  Still, when a group readying for Arizona’s 2014 elections is willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions of dollars in order to avoid disclosing where their money comes from, that does not suggest an impending ”Victory” for the voters of Arizona.

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