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Secretive Koch Networks Fined $1 Million for Illegal Campaign Contributions

by Clyde Weiss  |  October 30, 2013

Two right-wing groups linked to the billionaire Koch brothers were fined $1 million last week for funneling money to influence the outcomes of two California elections last year.

One was a ballot measure specifically intended to limit the voice of union members in the election process.

The California Fair Political Practices Committee announced the record civil settlement last week against the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership. The committee fined the Koch’s Arizona-based nonprofits for their failure to disclose the original sources of two so-called “dark money” campaign contributions totaling $15 million to influence the 2012 election ballot initiatives. Failure to disclose the source of such political contributions is a violation of state law.

“This case highlights the nationwide scourge of dark money nonprofit networks hiding the identities of their contributors,” Chairwoman Ann Ravel said in a statement. Her committee is “aggressively litigating to get disclosure and working on laws and regulations to put a stop to these practices in California.”

The Koch brothers used their vast wealth in recent years to weaken the power of union members. They are also key backers of the tea-party movement.

In the case of last year’s California elections, the two Koch-linked groups used their money to:

  1. Support passage of California’s Proposition 32. The failed initiative would have limited the voice of union members by eliminating their right to have voluntary political contributions taken from their paychecks while giving special exemptions to corporate interests.
  2. Block Proposition 30, a modest tax increase to fund education and other vital programs. Voters approved the measure, overcoming the Koch-backed campaign.

As part of the California settlement, the Koch-backed organizations must turn over the $15 million to the State General Fund, in addition to paying the $1 million fine.

While the groups were not required to release the names of the original donors of the contributions, state investigators did uncover some of them. Among them were San Francisco investor Charles Schwab, the Fisher family (owners of the GAP clothing empire), and Las Vegas Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, who also bankrolled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker during a recall election launched after he took away the collective bargaining rights of nearly 200,000 public service workers.

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