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Arizona donation to California called 'money laundering'

SACRAMENTO — An Arizona nonprofit disclosed Monday that two conservative groups were behind its $11 million campaign contribution to a California organization fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, but the revelation shed little light on who provided the money since those groups don't have to report their contributors.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's political watchdog agency, termed the donation from Americans for Responsible Leadership the largest case of "campaign money laundering" in state history.

The commission can levy fines but can do nothing to stop any campaign spending the group might be part of, including any ads it may have helped to buy. Meanwhile, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said she would continue investigating to determine whether any laws were broken.

"This is not going to be over on Election Day," she said.

The $11 million donation came in the final weeks of the campaign and gave a boost to a group that is trying to thwart Brown's tax initiative and Proposition 32, which seeks to limit union influence in politics.

The commission took the group to court for failing to divulge the source of its funds, and eventually appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, where state officials argued that it was critically important information that voters needed before they cast their ballots.

In a rare Sunday decision, the California Supreme Court unanimously ordered Americans for Responsible Leadership to disclose who was behind the donation. The group threatened to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court but backed down Monday morning and disclosed it received the $11 million from a group called Americans for Job Security through an intermediary, the Center to Protect Patient Rights. Both are federally registered nonprofits that are not legally required to disclose donors.

Americans for Job Security has been active in the presidential race, pouring millions of dollars into swing states for independent expenditure ads supporting GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates, and the Center to Protect Patient Rights distributed more than $44 million to more than two dozen conservative advocacy groups during the 2010 midterm elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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