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California sues over $11 million campaign donation from Arizona group

By Mary Slosson

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - A California campaign finance regulatory agency sued an Arizona group on Thursday over an eleventh hour $11 million donation to a political action committee, which the agency's head said was the largest such donation in state history.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission is suing the Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership for access to information about donors to the Arizona non-profit to evaluate if those donations comply with California campaign finance laws.

The commission said in its lawsuit, filed in the state Superior Court in Sacramento, that Americans for Responsible Leadership must cooperate with an audit into compliance with state disclosure laws before the November 6 election.

The donation constitutes not only one of the single largest contributions in the 2012 election season in California, but also the largest out-of-state contribution from one independent non-profit to another for the purposes of influencing an election, commission chairwoman Ann Ravel told Reuters.

"For them to have suddenly made an $11 million expenditure in California as an Arizona non-profit - it certainly makes us think that we need to get more information on them," Ravel said.

The Arizona group donated $11 million to the Small Business Action Committee PAC on October 15, according to the lawsuit.

The donation was intended to help fuel efforts to defeat a tax ballot initiative sponsored by California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and support another ballot measure that would stop automatic paycheck deductions for political activities that is seen as a potential blow to labor unions.

Americans for Responsible Leadership could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit.

The contribution was brought to the commission's attention by Common Cause, a left-leaning political lobbying group that alleged the campaign donation was made with laundered money.

"To have that information remain anonymous really creates problems for our democratic process," Ravel said.

(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Todd Eastham)

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