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By Patrick McGreevy
September 17, 2015

The state’s campaign finance watchdog agency on Thursday adopted new requirements that nonprofit groups that contribute through a federal political action committee to support or oppose ballot measures or candidates in California must disclose their donors.

“The amendment to this regulation clarifies that so-called ‘dark money,’ originating from nonprofit or other organizations whose donors are not disclosed, is not permitted in California elections,” said Hyla P. Wagner, general counsel for the state Fair Political Practices Commission in a report to the panel.

Legislation and previous action by the commission had generally required disclosure of donors where money went to support or oppose candidates and ballot measures in California.

But state officials were concerned about a possible loophole that would allow nondisclosure of donors if nonprofits make contributions through federal or out-of-state political action committees, rather than in-state PACs.

“It is significant that dark money will not be coming into California,” said Jodi Remke, the commission’s chairwoman, after the vote. “We heard rumblings from various federal PACs and out-of-state committees about this rule not applying to them. This closes a major potential loophole in California’s reporting requirements to stop any kind of undisclosed donors and dark money.”

The action implements a change authorized last year by the Legislature in response to an FPPC investigation into the dark-money issue.

That probe resulted in fines against two Arizona nonprofits for hiding the true source of funds they put into a campaign to fight Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012 tax-hike campaign and to promote a measure intended to curtail unions’ political influence.

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