Americans for Responsible Leadership

Americans for Responsible Leadership is a 501(c)(4) group. The Center for Responsive Politics notes that “ARL received almost all its [2012] revenues — 97.6 percent — from a single organization linked to billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch, the Center to Protect Patient Rights, making it practically a wholly-owned subsidiary of the latter group.”[1] When filing for nonprofit status, it informed the IRS that it did not plan to be involved in electoral politics – a promise it soon broke.[2]

The group became controversial during the 2012 election cycle, when its $11 million donation to a California PAC drew scrutiny.[3] Californians filed a complaint with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which ordered ARL to disclose its donors in compliance with California law. After losing a legal challenge to the Commission’s order, ARL then “identified the true source of the contribution as Americans for Job Security, through a second intermediary, The Center to Protect Patient Rights. Under California law, the failure to disclose this initially was campaign money laundering. At $11 million, this is the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history.”[4]

In a subsequent settlement, ARL was forced to surrender its contributions to the State of California; ARL and CPPR also paid an extra $1 million fine.[5] As summarized by ProPublica, “the manner in which the groups paid it speaks volumes about how dark their money really is. They paid by cashier’s check, sent by a Sacramento lawyer’s office… betraying no clue to the money’s origin.”[6] Despite this controversy, ARL’s application to the IRS for tax-exempt status was approved in October 2013.[7]

[1]Americans for Responsible Leadership wholly funded by Koch-backed group.” Viveca Novak, The Center for Responsive Politics, 12/13/13

[2]Controversial dark money group among five that told IRS they would stay out of politics, then didn’t.” Kim Barker, ProPublica, 01/02/13

[3]California’s $11 million campaign donation source tied to Koch Brothers, research reveals.” Aaron Sankin, The Huffington Post, 11/05/12

[4]Americans for Responsible Leadership admits money laundering, discloses $11 million donor.” California Fair Political Practices Commission, 11/05/12

[5]California settles ‘dark money’ case: source.” Paul Blumenthal, The Huffington Post, 10/24/13

[6]Dark money groups pay $1 million in fines in California case.” Kim Barker, ProPublica, 10/24/13

[7]Nonprofit’s exemption was granted despite record fine, big political spending.” Viveca Novak and Robert Maguire, The Center for Responsive Politics, 04/14/14