Scott Peters, the freshman House Democrat from La Jolla who is facing a big-money reelection battle with ex–San Diego City Council Republican Carl DeMaio, has been the beneficiary of an independent expenditure by a Washington DC–based environmental group noted for engaging in the same "dark money" practices of its conservative rivals, including Karl Rove and the billionaire Koch brothers.
According to a television commercial contract posted online by San Diego TV station KNSD, the liberal League of Conservation Voters spent $62,432 for 83 30-second spots touting Peters. The ads were broadcast between October 28 and December 4.
"This ad is part of LCV’s national $1 million ad campaign thanking five members of Congress for taking action in the face of gridlock in Washington and attacks from Big Oil, corporate polluters and their allies in Congress," says a league news release issued November 21.
"The campaign includes television and print advertising praising Senators Harry Reid, Brian Schatz and Kay Hagan, and Representatives Pete Gallego and Scott Peters."
Just who pays for the league's efforts is mostly shrouded in mystery because the non-profit organization is not required by federal law to reveal the identity of its donors, a situation noted November 22 by the Center for Public Integrity, which interviewed league spokesman Jeff Gohringer.
While super PACs, candidates’ campaigns and traditional political action committees must regularly report their funders, the Federal Election Commission has interpreted the law to require politically active nonprofits to disclose only the names of donors who give for the specific purpose of “furthering” particular ads — something that rarely happens.
Little is known about the sources of the League of Conservation Voters’ cash — although, earlier this year, it got a boost at an annual fundraising gala that featured speeches by Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Al Franken, D-Minn.
Gohringer said only that the League has financial backing from “more than [a] half-million supporters across the country.”
But a Center for Public Integrity review of IRS records show the League received substantial financial support last year from a nonprofit started by two of President Barack Obama's former aides, as well as nonprofits dedicated to advocating for “progressive” legislation and “clean energy.”
Priorities USA, a Democratic-aligned nonprofit headed by former White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, gave $650,000 to the League of Conservation Voters in 2012.
As previously reported, La Jolla billionaire Democrat Irwin Jacobs, San Diego's richest man and a key Peters financial backer, contributed $2 million to the Priorities USA Action super PAC last year.
The league's Gohringer defended the state of federal campaign disclosure laws, telling the Center for Public Integrity, "It’s unfortunate that groups like [Karl Rove's] Crossroads GPS have given c4 organizations a bad name because 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations like LCV — as well as the Sierra Club, NRA, AARP and others — serve an important role in our democracy."