By Steven Harmon
Bay Area News Group
Posted: 11/05/2012 06:11:27 AM PST

SACRAMENTO — In a unanimous and urgent decision, the state Supreme Court on Sunday ordered an Arizona group to immediately hand over documents related to its anonymous $11 million donation to a California business political action committee. But lawyers for the group immediately turned to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking yet another delay.

The quick-moving legal twists and turns are making for a hairpin finish to a political drama that has worn on for nearly three weeks. Aside from last-minute appeals in death penalty cases, the emergency weekend action by the state Supreme Court is considered extraordinary.

But the stakes were high and time was dwindling to bring the case to a head before Election Day Tuesday. And when the state’s high court, on a 7-0 vote, denied a motion for a stay by attorneys for Americans for Responsible Leadership, their inaction may well have put them in contempt of court.

“It’s quite a stunning action on their part,” said Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s political watchdog agency. “They’re going so far to avoid disclosure to the public that they’re spending a lot of money in attorney’s fees to drag this issue out.”

After a 3 p.m. conference call on Sunday between both sides and all seven justices, the court ordered the group to turn over all documents by 4 p.m., a deadline that came and went.

The Arizona group had appealed a ruling last week by a Sacramento County Superior Court judge, who had sided with the FPPC and the Attorney General’s Office and ordered the document transfer. The state Court of Appeal had granted the stay, but its decision was overturned Friday by the state’s highest court.

In a tweet, Attorney General Kamala Harris called the group’s decision to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay “outrageous.”

“This is an effort to obstruct the process and run out the clock,” she said.

Investigators and auditors for the FPPC were “poised to do an audit, ready to work through the night” to complete an investigation of emails, letters, texts, minutes and other communications between whoever was behind the donation to the Arizona group, Ravel said late Sunday.

A spokesman for the Arizona group’s attorneys said they were disappointed with the ruling.

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