Ann Ravel

Ann Ravel, outgoing chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, announces $16 million in penalties in a probe of anonymous political donations. She starts her new job as a member of the Federal Election Commission on Monday. (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press / October 24, 2013)

By Chris Megerian and Evan Halper
October 26, 2013, 5:46 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — Ann Ravel will start her new job in Washington on Monday with the kind of celebrity status rare for a career government lawyer.

As California’s top political watchdog, she launched a landmark investigation into secretive nonprofit groups that spent millions on state campaigns last year, and she announced $16 million in penalties against those groups this week.

Ravel’s supporters, who view anonymous political donations as a growing scourge on the American election system, want her to be as aggressive in her new post as a member of the Federal Election Commission, where she was sworn in on Friday.

But transparency advocates hoping for a repeat performance in Washington may be disappointed. The commission Ravel is joining has been deadlocked for years, split evenly between Democrats who want stricter rules and California-style enforcement and Republicans who have opposed such efforts.

“She probably knows what she’s getting into, but it’s going to be a very, very different culture,” said Larry Noble, president of Americans for Campaign Reform. “We’re not even enforcing the laws that are on the books.”

Campaigns around the country have been flooded with secret political money since the U.S. Supreme Court eased campaign finance laws in the Citizens United decision in 2010.

Nonprofit advocacy groups and trade associations, which are not bound by law to reveal who their donors are, spent more than $300 million in last year’s election, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

To read entire story, click here.