Competing ‘dark money’ initiative is in the works


dark_moneyI’ve told you about former Attorney General Terry Goddard’s Open and Honest Disclosure ballot measure for “dark money” from the so-called Open And Honest Coalition. I find his final product weak tea, no doubt watered down to satisfy his partners, former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, and Chuck Coughlin, president of HighGround Public Affairs political consultants and lobbyists (and the “shadow governor” of Arizona under Governor Jan Brewer).

I have recently learned that the Arizona Advocacy Network is preparing a competing “dark money” citizens initiative that goes much farther than the weak tea proposed by Terry Goddard.  It also proposes to strengthen anti-corruption laws.

Former state legislators Phil Lopes and Paula Aboud made a presentation to the Pima County Democratic Party executive committee on Monday night to outline the ballot measure, which is still being drafted. The citizens initiative is expected to launch by March.

The ballot measure is tentatively tiled the “Dark Money and Anti-Corruption Act of 2016.” The initiative is nearly finalized and is being vetted by lawyers for the November 2016 ballot.

The outline of policy objectives include:

1)  Ban gifts to all elected and appointed public officials

2)  Universal registration of political committees and real time disclosure

a) Expose “Dark Money”

3)  Strengthen anti-corruption laws

a) Forbid public officials from participating in policy decisions which financially benefit themselves, family or clients (aka “Bittersmith provision”)
b) Two year lobbying ban after holding elected or appointed office

4)  Increase Clean Elections funding with small donor matching funds system

a) Initial Clean Elections grant with qualifying $5 contributions
b) Raise additional funds from small donor-voters authorizing additional grants

Note: This is to correct for the court decision that struck down the “matching funds” provision of Clean Elections.

5) Increasing dedicated revenue for the Clean Elections Fund

a) $5 – $10 income tax negative check-off
b) Close existing corporate tax give-aways and exemptions
c) Permitting donations to the Fund from any citizen or entity

This appears to be a rather ambitious effort to clean up the entrenched political corruption in Arizona. I do have concerns that such an ambitious effort may run afoul of the “single subject” rule for ballot measures, but I have not seen a draft of the proposed legislation, so I will withhold judgment until I have seen the final product. The “single subject” rule is the most likely line of attack to keep the measure off the ballot.

A March launch date leaves only a small window of time in which to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot by the July 7 filing deadline. Your active support is going to be needed to collect enough signatures to qualify this measure for the ballot.

You should withhold your signature from Terry Goddard’s Open and Honest Disclosure measure until you have had the opportunity to review this competing ballot measure. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of you.

It would be better if only one measure appeared on the ballot. Competing ballot measures cause voter confusion.  It is not clear to me if the measure receiving the higher number of votes would supersede the other measure, as sometimes has occurred on the Arizona ballot. I believe it has to be offered as an either/or proposition for that to occur, or both measures can conceivably pass.

In any case, you should expect a legal challenge from the defenders of anonymous free speech, er, “dark money” from the “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute: Power to the Plutocrats!

Expect to hear more about this “dark money” ballot measure soon.