California’s Dark-Money Investigation Is Making Conservatives Sweat

California's Dark-Money Investigation Is Making Conservatives Sweat

Investigators with California's election watchdog and attorney general's office are hot on the trail of the true source of millions in dark money spent to defeat two hard-fought ballot propositions last fall. The wide-ranging probe has conservatives worried that a network of nonprofit groups used to move secret money around the country could be in for some unwanted exposure.

The investigation, led by the state's nonpartisan Fair Political Practices Commission, has already done more than most watchdogs to pry open the black box of the conservative dark-money groups that spent freely in 2012 without disclosing the sources of their money. Last fall, the FPPC revealed what it called "the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history" after it discovered that three nonprofits had funneled $11 million from Virginia to Arizona to California.

As the probe progresses, some conservatives are nervous that more details—such as the identities of actual donors—could be publicized. "This case has got very, very deep and significant implications," says a conservative lobbyist with knowledge of the investigation. "A lot of folks are going to have their dirty laundry hung out, and it's not going to be pretty. Why would money go through such a circuitous route if not to conceal the donors?"

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