Former FEC Chair Urges Investigation of $500,000 Donation to Newsom Recall

A former chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has filed a complaint against a company that donated $500,000 to the effort to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Ann Ravel, who served as chair of the FEC under President Barack Obama for the entirety of 2015, called on state authorities to investigate the Orange County-based company Prov. 3:9 LLC. Her complaint alleges that it is a "shell company."

"Such a dark money scheme is antithetical to a functioning democracy and in violation of the state's comprehensive campaign finance laws," her complaint says. "The people of California have the right to know, when the recall is being circulated, who is behind the effort."

Prov. 3:9 is a consulting firm based in Irvine, California, set up in 2018. The company's manager, Tomas Liu, is reportedly a tax accountant and a partner at certified public accounting firm White Nelson Diehl Evans.

"We have our beliefs in terms of the direction the state needs to go, and we felt that this effort was worthy of our contribution," Liu told Politicoon December 29.

"I felt the need to file the complaint because when I read about this contribution, and the fact that it came from an LLC, it reminded me of the Dark Money case that I did when I was at the FPPC [California Fair Political Practices Commission] in 2012, when $15 million was poured into the California election by an unknown committee—Committee to Protect Patient's Rights, a member of the Koch Brothers network—which had never before contributed in a California election," Ravel told Newsweek.

"I care deeply about the right of the American public to know who is funding political campaigns, as the US Supreme has itself acknowledged, this information enables voters to make voting decisions that are consistent with their views and values. I also knew from my experience at the FEC, that LLCs are often used as conduits for undisclosed contributions in political campaigns."

"I don't think that it says anything in particular about the attempt to recall Newsom, except that certain individuals do not want their identity to be known and are unwilling to stand up for their political views, and are willing to skirt the law in order to be secretive," Ravel said.

"Unfortunately, while California has some of the most advanced campaign finance laws in the country, and while the California Fair Political Practices Commission has shown that it will enforce those laws, the amount of money spent in campaigns in California politics is great.

"Given that campaigns often are a money war, it is inevitable that many wealthy donors will want to give large amounts of money yet do not want to be associated with a particular position or candidate. The problem we have in California, as elsewhere throughout the country, is that it appears to be large donors who wield all the political power, which skews the electoral process and public policy."

Those organizing the effort to recall Newsom need to collect 1.5 million signatures by March 17 to be successful, though this will likely mean 2 million signatures because of the number that may be deemed invalid. They say they have collected 900,000 signatures so far.

Thomas Liu has been contacted for comment on this article.

California Governor Gavin Newsom on USNS Mercy
California Governor Gavin Newsom (C), flanked by Director Mark Ghilarducci, Cal OES, (L) and Admiral John Gumbleton, United States Navy, speaks in front of the hospital ship USNS Mercy after it arrived into the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, 2020. An effort to recall Newsom is underway but it will require 1.5 million valid signatures by March 17. CAROLYN COLE/POOL/AFP/Getty Images