Didn’t see that coming, but it’s not surprising


dark money
Photo illustrating Laurie Roberts’ column. Dark, so dark!

While I was at the office this afternoon a friend dm’d me on Facebook with the news that the “Open and Honest Coalition”, the campaign spearheading two separate initiatives involving reining in dark money (good!) and changing the election system to one where a “jungle” primary would produce two, and only two, candidates for every spot in the general election (bad!), was suspending its paid signature-gathering operations due to funding drying up.

A possible explanation, per Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic, follows:

The dark money initiative and open primary initiative aren’t dead yet, supporters insist, but if not, they’re clinging to life by a thread.

Coughlin said dark-money interests intervened and cut off the flow of funding needed to fight for dark-money disclosure. I’m going to guess that means they – whoever “they” are — got to Texas billionaire John Arnold, who put up the seed money for the Open and Honest Elections campaign.

It sounds as if Gov Doug Ducey’s fingerprints are all over this end run around giving voters a say in how their elections will be run.

“When we have approached people, it is clear to us from those conversations the Governor’s Office doesn’t want disclosure on the ballot,” Coughlin said, during a press conference.

Yeah, I’ll buy that but I think that’s not the whole story. From the get-go, by which I mean going back to 2012 when the first iteration of “Open Primaries” was on the ballot (and failed), this was a quixotic quest by a coalition of country club Republicans and centrist Dems, who were once very relevant in Arizona politics, to wrest power from the new breed of reactionary that has taken over the state. (Not a bad goal on its face, but as it increasingly became clear that the backers planned to achieve it by co-opting and eventually demolishing the Democrats in Arizona, my antipathy to it grew exponentially. If these reports are true I’m relieved to have one less thing to be aggravated about this election cycle.)

It’s a mistake to blame a recent threat of dark money for a failure rooted in misty-eyed nostalgia for Burton Barr and Grady Gammage and the Phoenix 40. The “darkest” thing about this is the willful refusal of the Open and Honest supporters* to understand Arizona as it is now, both in the electorate and in the leadership.

*Except for Chuck Coughlin. The former top adviser for Jan Brewer damn well knew what Arizona was like a mere six years ago, in the primary election of 2010, when he orchestrated Brewer’s easy victory in that election on the back of SB1070.


  1. Anybody know if the other anti-dark money group has gotten their initiatives wording written. If it is good I’d be willing to carry petitions.

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