The Sacramento Bee reports today that California officials are seeking a criminal investigation into whether the Adam Smith Foundation -- headquartered in Jefferson City -- is illegally moving money to a campaign to overturn the Golden State's greenhouse gas law.
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Pérez have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to open an investigation into a tiny Missouri nonprofit organization that has pumped nearly $500,000 into a voter initiative to suspend the state's landmark climate change law.
In a letter to Holder on Tuesday, Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Pérez, D-Los Angeles, asked the Justice Department to determine whether the Adam Smith Foundation is illegally funneling campaign contributions from third parties to support the rollback measure, Proposition 23.
"Serious issues are implicated by the use of an out-of-state organization that may be abusing its tax status to avoid having to disclose the name of its donors to a campaign that will have a profound impact on the future of California," the lawmakers wrote.
John Elliott, the Adam Smith Foundation's president, could not be reached for comment, and an e-mail to the foundation's Jefferson City, Mo., office was not returned.
The $498,000 funneled through Jefferson City is a full 16% of the $3.1M raised by the "California Jobs Initiative committee" to date.
Steven Maviglio of The California Majority Report writes that "the Missouri-based Adam Smith Foundation had net revenue of $109 last year -- yet managed to give the Texas oil companies $498,000. Other newspaper reporters trying to learn more about the Foundation did not have their calls returned or were hung up on by Adam Smith officials."
The most recent filings with the Secretary of State show that the organization is led (on paper, at least) by John Elliott of Smithville; Thomas Shupe of St. Louis, Buddy Hardin of St. Charles; and Kurt Killen of Platte Woods. State Rep. Mike Lair was one of the organization's original board members.
The cast of characters who appear on the organization's official documents has previously raised questions regarding the possible involvement of GOP operatives James Harris and Jeff Roe, and more recent filings with the IRS and Missouri Ethics Commission confirm those suspicions.
For instance: The only donations that appear on the group's 990 filing for 2009 are $4,000 to Harris' Better Courts for Missouri organization (now known as ShowMe Better Courts) and $2,500 to Roe's "Citizens Against Forever Tax" committee.
ShowMe Better Courts, as you know, is all about junking the state's nonpartisan courts plan. Roe's "Citizens Against Forever Tax" committee was set up last year to battle a school tax levy in St. Joseph.
This year, the Adam Smith Foundation moved an additional $75,000 into "Citizens Against Forever Tax" (CAFT) which in turn moved almost all of its money to Roe's Axiom Strategies for direct mail, robocalls and other services in this year's elections. All told, Axiom has collected more than $89,000 from "Citizens Against Forever Tax" this year.
In addition: A July 27 donation of $35,000 from the Adam Smith Foundation to Citizens Against Forever Tax lists a St. Joseph address for the Foundation -- the address of the treasurer for Citizens Against Forever Tax, Ed Catron.
The organization's 2009 annual report: