Cam­paign to ID wealthy who do­nate dark money

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - By Melody Gu­tier­rez

SACRA­MENTO — With just over four months un­til the gen­eral elec­tion, la­bor and com­mu­nity groups will open a cam­paign Tues­day to ex­pose wealthy po­lit­i­cal donors who at­tempt to hide their con­tri­bu­tions.

The cam­paign, called Hedge Clip­pers, is kick­ing off its Cal­i­for­nia ef­forts with a re­port iden­ti­fy­ing dozens of donors who at­tempted to shield their po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions against Propo­si­tion 30, the 2012 bal­lot mea­sure pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown that raised taxes on the wealthy in or­der to bet­ter fund schools.

“The pub­lic needs to know a whole lot more about what these po­lit­i­cally ac­tive mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires are up to,” said Amy Schur, Cal­i­for­nia cam­paign direc­tor for the Al­liance of Cal­i­for­ni­ans for Com­mu­nity Em­pow­er­ment, one of the groups in­volved in the Hedge Clip­pers cam­paign.

Many of the names caught up in

the dark money scan­dal were ex­posed in 2013 fol­low­ing an investigation by the Fair Po­lit­i­cal Prac­tices Com­mis­sion.

Those con­trib­u­tors in­cluded $6.4 mil­lion from in­vestor Charles Sch­wab; $9 mil­lion from the Fisher fam­ily, who own Gap Inc.; as well as $1 mil­lion from Los An­ge­les phi­lan­thropist Eli Broad, who had pub­licly stated he sup­ported Prop. 30 while se­cretly giv­ing to op­po­si­tion ef­forts.

The Hedge Clip­pers cam­paign re­leased new names and con­tri­bu­tions Tues­day, in­clud­ing $100,000 from both Los An­ge­les de­vel­oper Ge­off Palmer and Hy­att Ho­tel heir Anthony Pritzker and $500,000 from John H. Scully of the Mill Val­ley hedge fund SPO Part­ners.

Palmer, Pritzker and Scully could not be reached for com­ment.

Scully is the founder of Mak­ing Waves Acad­emy, which op­er­ates two Rich­mond char­ter schools. Schur said the pub­lic char­ter schools fi­nan­cially ben­e­fited from Prop. 30.

Schur said she hopes out­ing those who se­cretly con­trib­uted against Prop. 30 in 2012 will pres­sure the wealthy donors to sup­port ef­forts this year to ex­tend the temporary taxes. Sup­port­ers of Prop. 30 are wait­ing to hear this week whether a bal­lot mea­sure to ex­tend per­sonal in­come taxes on the state’s wealth­i­est res­i­dents will have enough valid sig­na­tures to make the Novem­ber bal­lot.

“We are say­ing bil­lion­aires be­ware, we are watch­ing what you are do­ing, and you won’t do this in se­cret,” Schur said. “We will out you, and let the pub­lic know what poli­cies you are sup­port­ing.”

The 2012 dark money scan­dal to thwart Prop. 30 prompted a record $1 mil­lion fine against two Ari­zona non­prof­its that at­tempted to se­cretly sway the elec­tion.

The non­prof­its were ac­cused of il­le­gally fun­nel­ing $15 mil­lion against Prop. 30, which raised taxes on the wealthy, and for Prop. 32, which would have restricted union po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Money from po­lit­i­cal con­trib­u­tors — whose iden­ti­ties were kept se­cret — passed through con­ser­va­tive out-of­s­tate or­ga­ni­za­tions be­fore end­ing up in Cal­i­for­nia.

Ac­cord­ing to the Fair Po­lit­i­cal Prac­tices Com­mis­sion investigation in 2013, the funds were raised for ads re­lated to the two bal­lot mea­sures, but some of the Cal­i­for­nia donors wanted to re­main anony­mous, so the money was sent to an out-of­s­tate non­profit linked to bil­lion­aire con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists Charles and David Koch to avoid dis­clo­sure laws.

“I think it’s out­ra­geous that these cor­po­rate in­ter­ests have been able to use their money and power to get richer on the backs of un­der­served stu­dents,” said Sonya Me­hta, a teacher at Learn­ing With­out Lim­its char­ter school in Oak­land, who plans to at­tend a Hedge Clip­pers cam­paign rally in front of the Gap’s San Fran­cisco head­quar­ters Tues­day. “What they did in 2012 re­ally un­der­mines the demo­cratic process.”

Prop. 30 went on to win with 55 per­cent of the vote and Prop. 32 lost with 43 per­cent vot­ing in fa­vor.

The Hedge Clip­pers cam­paign used par­tially redacted donor lists that had been re­leased as part of the com­mis­sion’s investigation to iden­tify donors.

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