Michele Reagan should look to Montana’s ‘dark money’ disclosure law

Last year when Secretary of State Michele Reagan was in the Senate and running for higher office, she was pushing her so-called “dark money” disclosure bill. I explained at the time that Sen. Michele Reagan’s dark money disclosure bill will accomplish little:

MicheleReaganSen. Reagan’s bill “to include the names of the three largest contributors” will only result, at best, in the disclosure of “Kochtopus” alphabet soup 501(c) organizations — Russian nesting dolls — set up to hide the true identity of the actual contributors, who are millionaire and billionaire plutocrats. It is not a serious attempt to regulate the dark money organizations corrupting our elections. It is pure posturing by her for her campaign to become Arizona’s next Secretary of State. We can do better than Michele Reagan, the co-author of the GOP Voter Suppression Act, HB 2305.

Nevertheless, opinion makers like The Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts — whom I believe is genuinely concerned about the corrupting influence of “dark money” in Arizona politics — truly madly deeply wanted to believe that Michele Reagan was also genuinely concerned about the corrupting influence of “dark money” in Arizona politics. Like Peter Pan, Ms. Roberts assured readers “If you believe, clap your hands; don’t let [“dark money” regulation] die.”

Only since her election as Secretary of State, Michele Reagan has failed and/or refused to take any action against “dark money” groups. Quite the opposite, she even intervened on behalf of one “dark money” group in one lawsuit. Even Peter Pan Laurie Roberts is now disillusioned. Has Michele Reagan gone over to Arizona’s dark side? Hindsight is 20/20. The trick is knowing when you are being played, and not encouraging others to fall for it.

The Arizona Republic reports today, Reagan: ‘Dark money’ disclosure can’t happen:

Secretary of State Michele Reagan has given up on digging up the roots of so-called “dark money.”

It’s a reversal from the stance she had as a lawmaker and as a statewide candidate, when she championed disclosure by non-profit corporations that get involved in campaigns.

In recent interviews, Reagan talked about her evolution on the issue and why she’s now focusing on beefed-up technology, not more regulation, to highlight campaign spending.

* * *

She believes her office is the only one that should oversee independent expenditures, something that’s at the heart of a dispute with the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The commission has fined a political non-profit, the Arizona Legacy Foundation Action Fund, $95,000 for not disclosing its donors during the 2014 campaign, something Reagan objects to.

She said her turnaround on the dark-money issue, which dominated last year’s Secretary of State race, is based on hard-won experience that disclosure is hard to wring out of 501(c) 4 corporations, which are social-welfare non-profit groups. It has nothing to do, she said, with the fact that her victory last fall was aided by a $304,000 last-minute attack on her Democratic opponent by the 60 Plus Association, a political non-profit.

[Riiiight.]

Reagan said her attempts as chairman of the state Senate Elections Committee to force dark-money disclosure in 2014 showed her that such a quest is impossible.

And, she added, she has no faith the Arizona Legislature would consider requiring any disclosure, even as other states work on legislation to peel back some of the layers of funding for certain political non-profits.

“When I hear people now talk about ‘We can just do this, or just do that,’ I can spot the flaws pretty much right away,” she said. She’s followed what other states have tried and said nothing gets close to achieving disclosure.

She dismisses California’s approach, where a separate commission was able to force disclosure of some dark-money spending that influenced two Arizona ballot measures in 2012.

Arizonans don’t want “another government entity with subpoena powers” that can go after companies, she said.

Pay attention Laurie Roberts, your girl Michele Reagan is lying to you again!

I posted back in April, If Montana can do it, why can’t Arizona?

In news that you did not see reported here in Arizona last week, the Montana legislature passed sweeping campaign finance legislation that will require the disclosure of all donors to any independent group spending money on state-level elections.

The Huffington Post reported, Montana Republicans And Democrats Unite To Ban Dark Money:

dark_moneyThe bipartisan Montana Disclose Act will effectively end the flood of “dark money” — electoral spending by nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors — that has plagued recent Montana elections.

“Montana elections are about to become the most transparent in the nation, requiring those trying to influence our elections to come out of the dark money shadows,” Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who plans to sign the bill, said in a statement. “Our elections should be decided by Montanans, not shadowy dark money groups.”

The bill will require all groups, no matter their tax status, to disclose their donors if they spend money on electoral communications either targeting or mentioning a candidate within 60 days of an election.

“What Montana shows is that the issue of money in politics is really only a partisan issue in Washington, D.C.,” Adam Smith, spokesman for the campaign finance reform group Every Voice, said. “People can come together — Republicans and Democrats — and pass real effective reforms of the system.”

* * *

The bill overcame opposition from the National Rifle Association and Americans for Prosperity, the main political vehicle of the billionaire Koch brothers.

Montana is the second state, after California, to enact dark money disclosure laws. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman imposed similar disclosure rules through regulatory action.

Once again, in news that you did not see reported here in Arizona last week, The Missoulian reports, Montana moves to reveal corporate campaign spending:

Montana, a state that has long prided itself on strict campaign finance laws, is giving up on barring corporations from political spending and is instead attempting to expose every penny spent by them in elections.

Proposed rules released Wednesday to guide the state’s expansive election law approved earlier this year would increase disclosure requirements for corporations and committees granted free-speech rights by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2010 Citizens United ruling.

[The Citizens United decision actually upheld disclosure requirements, saying that “transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”]

“This is an embracing of Citizens United,” Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said Thursday about the new law. “They can speak, they can spend their money. They simply have to tell Montanans how much they’re spending, who they spent it against or for, when they spent it and where they got that money from.”

Montana is among the first states to require the level of disclosure, and other states are watching to see what effect it will have, Motl said.

“Other states are always watching Montana,” he said. “It’s a good show to watch.”

Montana has been crafting the new law since 2012, when the Supreme Court used its Citizens United decision as the basis to throw out the state’s century-old law that limited corporate election spending.

That 1912 law came in response to the corruption and election-buying that was notorious during the state’s Copper King era.

Leaders in libertarian-minded Montana, citing recent cases in which legislative candidates were accused of illegally coordinating with a conservative group, sought a post-Citizens United replacement that would continue to prevent so-called dark money from influencing elections.

The new law has gotten opponents’ attention. Attorneys who successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to throw out the 1912 law have already filed a constitutional challenge to the new law.

One of the problems with the law is that it broadens the definition of a political committee that is required to disclose spending and donors, said Anita Milanovich of the Bopp Law Firm.

That definition will now include groups not expressly advocating for or against a candidate. For example, a committee or corporation that releases an ad with a candidate’s photograph and his views on an issue would be subject to the disclosure law, even if the advertisement doesn’t recommend voting for or against the candidate, Milanovich said.

“If something like this were upheld, that would certainly attract the attention of other states looking to review their laws,” she said.

Motl said the lawsuit means the new law will be tested for its constitutionality but will be in place and effective for the 2016 elections.

The draft rules face a public comment period and final approval before an Oct. 1 deadline.

Michele Reagan says that “dark money” regulation is “impossible” because: (1) she has no faith the Arizona Legislature would consider requiring any disclosure, and (2) she never had any intentions of ever actually doing anything about it, like the states of California and Montana.

As I explained in If Montana can do it, why can’t Arizona?

Cartoon_07If Montana can do it, why can’t Arizona? Simple: Arizona has been under one party control for years, and the Arizona Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the “Kochtopus” dark money network which has its hub of operations in Maricopa County. Koch operatives Sean Noble, Kirk Adams and AZGOP chair Robert Graham, are all in positions of political power. There is no incentive for them to change the GOP culture of corruption from which their political power derives.

Former Attorney General Terry Goddard in January launched Vox Populi Association of Arizona (VPA Arizona) to fight “dark money” in Arizona. “dark money” in Arizona, Terry Goddard starts new nonprofit; on Facebook VPA Arizona | Facebook. This nonprofit is currently raising funds for a citizens initiative based upon California’s model law for campaign finance disclosure.

This has to be done by  a citizens initiative only because our lawless Arizona Tea-Publican legislature is simply too corrupt to enact any meaningful law to deal with the corrupting influence of anonymous dark money in politics.

When Terry Goddard spoke to the Democrats of Greater Tucson, he indicated at the time that the initiative might be ready to file in time for the July 4th holiday. I do not know whether this is still his time frame. The last day to file constitution and initiative petitions is July 7, 2016, so this leaves approximately one year to collect signatures.

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