SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An Arizona group can continue to withhold documents related to an $11 million contribution to a California political action committee while it appeals a lower court ruling, California's 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled Friday.
The decision makes it increasingly unlikely that voters will know the source of the money before Election Day.
Attorney General Kamala Harris and the California Fair Political Practices Commission wanted to force Americans for Responsible Leadership to comply with a court order for the information while the group appeals. But the appeals court rejected that request.
The state's political watchdog agency had argued in its emergency petition that the information officials are seeking as part of an audit is only relevant before Tuesday's election and that the issue will be moot after Californians cast their ballots.
The purpose of auditing the Arizona nonprofit is "to ensure compliance with California's campaign disclosure laws when it matters — before the general election," the FPPC wrote.
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge earlier this week ordered the Phoenix-based nonprofit to submit to an audit by the FPPC by 5 p.m. Thursday, saying Californians would suffer "irreparable injury" if the information was not turned over. The group appealed.
At issue is an $11 million contribution made in October from Americans for Responsible Leadership to the Small Business Action Committee PAC, a California-based political action committee that is campaigning against Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative and a separate initiative that would limit the ability of unions to raise money for political causes.
The Fair Political Practices Commission is expected to appeal Friday's ruling to the state Supreme Court.
"We are exploring all of our options to make sure the ARL complies with the trial court's order requiring them to comply with the FPPC's audit," said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.