Americans for Responsible Leadership

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Americans for Responsible Leadership
Website:Americans for Responsible Leadership
Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL) is an Arizona-based 501(c)(4) organization. According to its Facebook page, the organization "seeks to promote the general welfare by educating the public on concepts that advance government accountability, transparency, ethics, and related public policy issues."

In October 2012, ARL gave an $11,000,000 contribution to the Small Business Action Committee in California. The donation attracted national attention.[1] It also attracted a successful lawsuit seeking to force the organization to reveal the identity of its donors, leading ARL to disclose that it had received its funding from a group called "Americans for Job Security."[2] "Americans for Job Security" sent $11 million to the "Center to Protect Patient Rights" which then gave $11 million to ARL.[3]


ARL has five directors.[4]

They are:

  • Kirk Adams. Adams is the president of ARL, a position he assumed in mid-September 2012.[4] In 2012, he unsuccessfully sought the nomination of the Republican Party to be their candidate for the U.S. House representing the 5th Congressional District of Arizona. He was a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 2007-2011; during his time there, he served a term as Speaker of the House.
  • Robert Graham. Graham owns a wealth management company based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is a candidate for the chairmanship of the Arizona Republican Party and says he wants the state Republican Party to "respect the grassroots conservatives and Tea Party members who have infused our Party with energy and recommitment to conservative ideals." He has said that public employee labor unions are "the parasite that is killing our jobs."[5]
  • Eric Wnuck. Wnuck is the CEO and President of Enhanced Medical Imaging.[6]
  • Steve Nickolas. Nickolas is a businessman who has been described as "a bottled water entrepreneur."[5]
  • Taylor Searle. Searle is a CPA who works for The Wolff Company. The Wolff Company is a real estate private equity firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona.[4]

Ballot measure donations



Jerry Brown reaction:

ARL's donation to the Small Business Action Committee angered Jerry Brown, who said, "California students are being hit by a money bomb tossed at them by a shadowy out-of-state Super PAC. Crossing the Arizona border and spending $11 million of secret money to hurt California students is an extreme act. We're going to draw a line in California. We're going to stand and fight in defense of our schools."[1]

Brown, who aggressively campaignined in support of his Proposition 30 tax increase, also said, "Is this money from a foreign source? That's illegal. Is it money from terrorists? That's illegal."[7]

Derek Cressman reaction:

Derek Cressman, the regional director of California Common Cause, was one of the signatories to the official voter guide arguments opposing Proposition 32. Cressman was angered by the ARL donation to the Small Business Action Committee, saying, "We think it's clear as day that this is money that knows what it's doing, that was given for a specific purpose that is part of a national agenda aimed at reducing taxes and weakening labor unions."[1]

Other political giving

  • In April 2012, the group spent $5,3211.15 for "get-out-the-vote" telephone calls to support Orrin Hatch in his 2012 Republican primary contest with Tea Party activist Dan Liljenquist.[4]
  • In August 2012, the group gave a total of $57,000 to two Arizona groups, the Republican House Victory and Republican Victory Fund.[4]
  • In August 2012, it paid $11,502.60 for mailers supporting Andy Tobin in his successful Republican primary battle against Lori Klein.[4]
  • In October 2012, Americans for Responsible Leadership spent somewhat more than $576,000 hiring two firms (Headway Workforce Solutions and Angler, LLC) to conduct "voter contact phones: personnel and "voter contact phones: system" in opposition to the candidacy of Barack Obama.[4]


The California Fair Political Practices Commission filed a lawsuit against ARL in Sacramento County Superior Court on Thursday, October 26.[8]

The lawsuit sought to force ARL to reveal the identity of its donors.[8] Specifically, the FPPC wanted ARL to turn over to it for the purposes of doing an audit all "text messages, emails, letters, notes from phone calls, minutes -- between the group's board of directors, donors, attorneys and the Small Business Action Committee."[9]

A court hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, October 30.[8] However, attorneys representing ARL were based in Virginia. Because of Hurricane Sandy, they were unable to reach Sacramento, California, on Tuesday in time for the hearing. As a result, judge Shelleyanne Chang delayed the hearing for 28 hours, until late Wednesday, October 31.[10]

Brad Benbrook represented ARL in its legal battle. In papers filed with the court, Benbrook said that there is a "legitimate interest that donors to nonprofits have in maintaining their privacy." In response to statements made to the press by Ann Ravel, who chairs the FPPC, Benbrook also said that the FPPC has "demonstrated willingness to prejudge this matter and litigate in the press."[8]

Superior court ruling

Judge Chang issued a tentative ruling on Tuesday, October 30 that gave ARL 24 hours to turn over its books to the FPPC for an audit.[11] In the afternoon of Wednesday, October 31, Judge Change confirmed her tentative ruling made on Tuesday, and ordered that the organization turn over to the FPPC the documents that agency had demanded.

According to Judge Chang's ruling, "The court finds that the people of the state of California will suffer irreparable harm [if the FPPC can't audit the organization's books]....Without the FPPC's audit and review of appropriate records, potential disclosure of information prior to the general election critical to the public in deciding how to vote for Propositions 30 and 32 may not be made."[11]

California appellate courts

A spokesperson for ARL indicated that there was a "high probability" that they would appeal this ruling to a higher court.[11] On Thursday, November 1, they were true to their word and filed a request for an appeal.[12] The FPPC almost immediately filed a petition with the court asking that the request for an appeal be denied.[13]

On Friday, November 2, the appeals court declined to order ARL to immediately hand over its records. In response, Ann Ravel of the FPPC announced that she was going to head to the California Supreme Court to ask the state's highest court to order the appeals court to lift the stay it placed on Judge Chang's superior court ruling. At the time, Ravel said it was unlikely that going to the California Supreme Court would lead to her agency obtaining the records it has demanded before the November 6 election.[14]

However, on Sunday, November 4, the California Supreme Court convened on an emergency basis and unanimously ordered ARL to immediately give its documents to the FPPC. Specifically, in a 3:00 p.m. conference call on November 4 involving all seven justices of California's highest court and attorneys on both sides of the lawsuit, the California Supreme Court ordered ARL to give its documents to the FPPC by 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.[15]

U. S. Supreme Court

After that phone call, ARL reacted by filing an appeal with the United States Supreme Court, asking for a stay of the order that it give its documents to California election authorities. Matt Ross, a spokesperson for Americans for Responsible Leadership, said, "While we are working to deliver the records we still believe that the FPPC does not have the authority to take such action and have filed a request for immediate stay with the United States Supreme Court."

Thad Davis, another attorney for ARL, submitted a letter on Sunday afternoon to the emergency application clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court; in this letter, he said that the actions of California's courts are a violation of their "due process and equal protection rights" and that this harm "cannot be undone or redressed on appeal."[15]

Davis said in the letter that the state of California has its own politically-based reasons for going after ARL: "Here, ARL contributed to an entity opposing the governor of California's top political priority -- Proposition 30. The chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission has made manifestly biased statements, politicizing ARL's contribution and compliance and the governor has compared ARL's donors to the Ku Klux Klan."[15] He also said, "This proceeding raises critical First Amendment issues regarding the ability of an organization to freely associate and speak on vital election-related matters without reprisal by government officials opposed to their view, during the midst of the election and in contravention of the government's own investigative procedures."[16]

External links

Suggest a link


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mercury News, "California Common Cause wants state agency to investigate $11 million in anonymous contribution," October 19, 2012
  2. New York Times, "Arizona Group Says It Was Middleman for Donations to California Ballot Measures," November 5, 2012
  3. KQED, "What’s Known About the Groups Behind the $11 Million ‘Money Laundering’," November 5, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Talking Points Memo, "What’s Behind The Arizona Dark Money Group Spending Millions In California?," October 25, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 NBC Bay Area, "GOP Activist Leads Ariz. Group Pouring Millions Into Calif. Ballot Fight," October 22, 2012
  6. Leadership of "Enhanced Medical Imaging"
  7. San Luis Obispo Tribune, "Jerry Brown accuses anti-tax group of illegal money-laundering," October 21, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Arizona Daily Star, "Calif. suit targets anti-initiative group," October 26, 2012
  9. Mercury News, "California judge signals she'll allow investigation of shadowy Arizona group," October 30, 2012
  10. SCPR, "Hurricane delays hearing on $11 million Arizona donation to California campaign," accessed October 29, 2012
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 KTVU, "Judge agrees to audit of $11M Arizona donation," October 30, 2012
  12. San Francisco CBS Local, "Group Opposing Proposition 30 Appeals Order For Campaign Records," November 1, 2012
  13. Mercury News, "Attorneys for shadowy Arizona group pack powerful political connections," November 1, 2012
  14. New York Times, "Donors Remain Secret in California Proposition Campaign," November 3, 2012
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Vallejo Times Herald, "California Supreme Court orders Arizona group to hand over campaign records," November 5, 2012
  16. Sacramento Bee, "California Supreme Court orders Arizona group to release campaign donor records," November 5, 2012