A conservative group that supports Republican candidates has agreed to pay a $40,000 civil penalty and disclose the source of funds used in 2010 ad campaign supporting Brian Sandoval in his inaugural bid for governor.
The settlement announced Wednesday ends a four-year legal battle between Democratic Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller and Alliance for America’s Future, a Virginia-based nonprofit whose principals at the time included political consultant Mary Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Miller is running for attorney general in this year’s election.
“Nevadans have a right to know who is trying to influence their elections and what they stand to gain,” his campaign said in a statement issued shortly after the settlement was announced. “If dark money groups, and the people who bankroll them, can’t stand the sunlight, they should stay out of Nevada.”
Lawyers for the alliance could not be reached immediately for comment. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington D.C.-based non-partisan group that tracks campaign spending, the Alliance for America’s Future spent an estimated $7 million in 2010.
The civil fine is the largest ever imposed for a Nevada campaign finance violation, Miller said. The alliance also agreed to register as a political action committee in the state and file contribution and expense disclosures for the 2010 election cycle.
Those reports list just one donation of $230,000 from the Republican Governor’s Public Policy Committee. All of that was paid to Crossroads Media LLC, another conservative group, for the campaign ad.
Miller sued the alliance in 2010 for running ads spotlighting Sandoval in his gubernatorial bid without registering as a political action committee in Nevada and disclosing donors.
Alliance lawyers argued the television spots touting Sandoval’s conservative credentials didn’t expressly advocate for his election, and therefore the group was not bound by Nevada election laws.
Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson disagreed. In 2010, he granted an injunction sought by Miller prohibiting the alliance from running ads without registering. Alliance lawyers appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, which two years later reversed the injunction because the election was over and the point was moot.
But justices sent other arguments in the case back to Wilson. Last fall, Wilson fined the group $110,000 and ordered it to disclose the source of money used in the commercials. Alliance for America’s Future filed another appeal, but Wednesday’s settlement ends the matter.