“Dark money” doesn’t always mean bribing elected officials; sometimes it means buying them while they are still only candidates


By Craig McDermott, crossposted from Random Musings


Normally, I am loath to comment on any primary race, even a Republican primary race – the “lesser of two evils” is usually still pretty evil.

However, I will make an exception when the observation that I make is about the conduct of the candidate, and not the content of his/her positions on the issues*.

* – An exception to that exception: When a candidate self-identifies as a Democrat but holds positions or exhibits an attitude toward the public that says “Republican”.

Then, they’re fair game…

The race that is the subject of this post is actually a three-way race for two seats (AZ House of Representatives), but the principle is still applicable.

In Legislative District 1, centered around Prescott, there are three candidates running for the two Republican nominations to the House –

Noel Campbell, an incumbent (the other House incumbent there, Republican Karen Fann, is running for the AZ Senate seat there; she’s unopposed in both the primary and the general)

Chip Davis, a long-time Yavapai County supervisor

David Stringer, a businessman

This isn’t about any of the positions on issues (suffice it to say, I wouldn’t vote for any of them).

Nope, it’s about one of them.

Campbell, the incumbent, is running as a “Clean” candidate.  In the two campaign finance reports that he has filed this year, he reports raising $2070 from individual contributors, and making $0 in loans to his campaign. (Note: to run as a Clean Elections candidate for a seat in the legislature one has to obtain $5 contributions from at least 250 voters in the district)

Davis reports raising almost $43K from individual contributors and $10K in a loan to his own campaign.

Stringer reports raising $0 from individual contributors and loaning his own campaign more than $89K. (Relax – he’s got the money to afford this; his financial disclosure statement indicates that he has more than $1 million in cash and assets available)

Stringer *has* accepted at least one outside contribution for his campaign –

Thanks to the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting for shining a light on this

“American Federation for Children” sounds good in an “Awww shucks, they’re for kids” sort of way.

However, a little research turns up the fact that AFC is an “astroturf” (fake grassroots) group that exists to push for the privatization (and profitization) of education in the U.S.

From SourceWatch

The American Federation for Children (AFC) is a conservative 501(c)(4) advocacy group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues. It is the 501(c)(4) arm of the 501(c)(3) non-profit group the Alliance for School Choice.  Former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, who was charged with multiple crimes stemming from abuse of his office, is on staff at ASC as Senior Advisor to its Government Affairs Team.

In the organization’s own words, ASC is “a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs.”

The anti-public education bent isn’t something that’s new to Stringer.

From his own campaign website

Stringer became especially active when he helped spearhead the campaign that lead to the defeat of the 2013 PUSD school bond and budget override.


  1. Perhaps Sen. Kavanagh can help us get real: tell us how it worked with the high-interest loan bill this past session. Sean Noble, of dark money infamy, has his associates facilitate the formation of Arizona Financial Choice Association, a working group of short-term loan companies. Financial Freedom PAC then hands out many donations, including $1,000 to Sen. Kavanagh, who introduces enabling legislation in the Senate. All of the recipients of the PAC money support the bill; Sen. Kavanagh even recites the talking points for public persuasion. How is this not buying influence? Maybe we do need to call out almost every politician.

  2. Exactly, Craig. Influence can be bought without going anywhere near bribery. And, if that fails, the bribery can be accomplished in a way that it is not punishable, like the pots of gold that await retired politicians.

    • Bob, you are right, but what shouldn’t be ignored is the fact that those on the receiving end of the largesse are the ones who write the rules saying what is “punishable” and what is not.

  3. Which is it John, your pals didn’t take any real contributions from dark money groups, and even if they did this doesn’t really mean anything in policy delivery to said group?

  4. There is a “Chicken and Egg” dilemma here. Does Dark Money, or any money for that matter, cause candidates to change their position or does money go to candidates who already have a position that the donor supports? You have to separately look at each candidate and their record in order to answer this question.
    Also, does “Dark Money” become “Light Money” if it comes from an organization I support?
    And what about lobbying? Much, much more is spent on lobbying than on campaign donations! Of course only lobbyists on the wrong side should be limited; lobbyists on my side are only helping to insure the right outcomes.

  5. By the way, I looked at the campaign database and Stringer has not accepted any donations. How can you say he has accepted a donation from the American Federation of children? Putting an * around a lie does not make it true.

    • FWIW, I found it. Here are the steps –

      Go to the AZSOS’ main website.

      From the “Elections” drop down menu at the top of the page, select “Campaign Finance & Reporting”.

      From the menu on the left side of the page, select “Search the Campaign Finance Database”.

      On the search page, change the “Search Type” to “Committees”.

      Change the filer type to “Independent Expenditure”.

      Scroll down the list until you see “American Federation for Children, Inc.”

      Click on that line.

      After the summary box opens, click on “More” in the filer name section.

      A list of reports will appear. The one relevant to this post is the one dated 7/26/2016.

      • Oh, and a few days later (report dated 8/4/2016) the same group dropped nearly $11K on the same candidate.

    • You found nothing. Stringer did not get any money from any dark money groups and he and any R or D cannot control what so called dark money groups do.

      Once again, get real.

  6. By the way, I looked at the campaign database and Stringer has not accepted any donations. How can you say he has accepted a donation from the American Federation of children. Putting an * around a lie does not make it true.

  7. The suggestion that campaign contributions or help from any group, including dark money groups, buys candidates is absurd. We’re it true, then believers of this unfounded belief would ethically have to call for the removal of almost every politician in the country, especially Hillary and President Obama.
    And while we are on the subject of the absurd, does that mean that targets of dark money groups are angelic victims?
    Get real!

    • Funny, you AZ GOTeaP folks defending dark money because the donors deserve privacy, when just a few years back you all wanted to take a peak and the President’s Johnson.

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