A group that backs privatizing public infrastructure engineering work gave $400,000 to an opaque, out-of-state organization that injected millions of dollars and plenty of controversy into California's initiative campaigns last year.
New state campaign filings show that the American Council of Engineering Companies California made a $150,000 donation to a Virginia-based nonprofit in July and another $250,000 in September.
That nonprofit, Americans for Job Security, in turn, gave money to another nonprofit organization based in Arizona, which then contributed $11 million to a California committee that opposed Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 tax hike and supported Proposition 32, which sought to end payroll- deducted political contributions.
The engineering business group's donation surfaced Friday because California law requires political action committees to show their spending, including money that goes to issue-advocacy groups.
"We completely believed and understood and still believe and understand that we were donating to an issue-advocacy effort," said Paul Meyer, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies California. "And so that's why we appropriately, timely and fully reported to the secretary of state. We fully complied with the law."
Asked what issue the council gave $400,000 to advocate, Meyer said, "The issue was really sort of money in politics. Our members really don't like the whole money-in-politics thing."
The president of the state engineers union, which has fought privatization for many years, issued a statement blasting the council's donations.
"They sought to deny our schools desperately needed funding, silence middle class families, and evade California's campaign finance laws," said Steve Lee, president of Professional Engineers in California Government. "They should be ashamed."