The pressure in states with stringent campaign financing laws contrasts sharply with the approach on the federal level, where non-profit organizations spent millions of dollars to influence races but are not required to disclose donors, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
Earlier in November California's Fair Political Practices Commission forced an Arizona group to reveal the source of the $11 million it spent on influencing two California state ballot initiatives, tracing the funds to a Virginia organization that does not reveal its donors and triggering an investigation of the original source of the funding, the newspaper said.
"Frankly, if we don't take a stand on this, we might as well just pack up our campaign disclosure law and send it away," said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, after judges in his state and in Montana required the disclosure of contributors to two non-profit groups that drew the attention of state regulators.
The scrutiny of advocacy groups by state election officials began after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 lifted the ban on direct political expenditures by corporations, triggering a surge of activity by groups incorporated as social welfare agencies and permitted to engage in issue advocacy.
Contributions are routed from one agency to another in what some state authorities call "campaign money laundering," the newspaper said.
California State Sen. Leland Yee said he will introduce legislation requiring more complete disclosure of funding.
"How can anyone allow organizations of whatever kind to come into this state and not disclose the true source of money?" he asked.