Referendums (citizens veto) have been filed for SB 1516 and HB 2296, the “dark money on steroids” bills pushed through the legislature by our lawless Tea-Publican legislators and governor. Anti-Dark Money petitions start circulating:
Opponents of changes approved earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature filed the necessary paperwork Friday to begin circulating petitions to refer the two new laws to the ballots.
The two measure would create new exceptions to existing statutes that require certain groups that try to influence elections to disclosure the true source of their cash. That would bar both the secretary of state and the Citizens Clean Elections Commission from demanding they open up their books.
Foes have until Aug. 5 to gather 75,321 valid signatures on each of two petitions.
If they are successful, both measures are would not take effect until voters decide in November whether to ratify what lawmakers have approved or reject it.
The heart of the fight is over provisions in SB 1516 and HB 2296 that says if an organization is classified as a “social welfare” organization by the Internal Revenue Service it need not disclose its donors to efforts to affect political races. Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Phoenix, who spearheaded that effort, said the Internal Revenue Code aligns with existing law which says groups that spend less than half their money on political issues can keep the sources of their funding secret.
Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, said the problem with that is the IRS does not actively police these groups to ensure they are, in fact, living within their fiscal limits.
“SB 1516 in a very kind of sneaky way abdicates the state’s responsibility to oversee expenditures in campaigns from dark money groups,” he said. Clark said the two state agencies that have the power to police election laws need to be able to demand groups that are spending money to influence Arizona voters open their books.
And there’s something else.
While federal law says “social welfare” groups cannot spend more than half their money trying to elect candidates, there is no such limit on trying to approve or defeat ballot measures. That means these groups could theoretically spend all of their money — from anonymous donors — to influence elections.
Clark also said the changes give political parties the power to “launder” anonymous donations and get the funds to candidates, all outside the purview of voters.
Clark is proceeding under the premise that people do want to know who is spending millions of dollars on commercials to affect the outcome at the ballot.
“We know the public wants nothing to do with dark money and they can see through these games,” he said.
The amount of anonymous donations in the last election was closed to $15 million.
In the governor’s race alone, the $5 million spent on the general election by Republican Doug Ducey and Democrat Fred DuVal was eclipsed by the $9 million others spent trying to influence the race.
And two Republicans got elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission with $3 million spent by outside groups. Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility that is regulated by the commission, refuses to confirm or deny whether it was the source of any of that money.
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Clark said he is lining up donors and believes his group, dubbed Stop Corruption Now, will have more than enough money to get the necessary signatures.
The reason Clark needs to do two petition drives is because of a last-minute maneuver organized by Mesnard.
After the governor signed SB 1516 foes began making plans to refer it to the ballot. So Mesnard had the same language inserted into HB 2296, complete with a provision to have it take effect ahead of the November election.
That would ensure that even if voters rejected SB 1516, the language would revert to what is in HB 2296, effectively nullifying the whole referendum process. Clark said he intends to refer both measures to the ballot to ensure that does not happen.
As of this posting, the Secretary of State only has the referendum for SB 1516 posted (will be updated today).
Click here for full text of initiative: PDF
In other news, Terry Goddard has sent out an email message on behalf of VPA to supporters of “dark money” initiative, the Open and Honest Disclosure Amendment, to announce that he has given up on his initiative and now supports Ken Clark’s referendums of SB 1515 and HB 2296:
Almost two months ago, the main financial support for our anti-dark money petition was snatched away. Since then, I have been burning up the phone lines seeking new financial backing. Many folks stepped-up their support for VPA’s efforts. Some made pledges totaling almost $500,000, but with the sensible condition that we raise the whole amount needed (almost a million dollars) before releasing those pledges. So far, I have not found the needed match money.
The bottom line: Sadly, it takes big money to fight big money. With limited dollars to get our anti-dark money petition qualified for the ballot and the short time remaining to get almost 300,000 valid signatures, the job is just too big for our resources. In spite of great volunteer support across Arizona and polls showing over 80% of Arizonans would vote to stop dark money, I don’t see how the current petition effort will get us on the ballot this year.
Today, I am halting VPA’s participation in the Open and Honest Disclosure petition drive. But,
VPA’s anti-dark money efforts continue.
One reason to stop now is because we need to focus on another threat to fair elections in Arizona. SB1516 was recently signed into law. This complete rewriting of our election statutes takes a huge step in the wrong direction. Instead of exposing dark money, it makes it even easier to use anonymous funds. Before we can hope to have open and honest elections, we must repeal this atrocious law.
VPA will be supporting Rep Ken Clark’s effort to refer SB1516 to the voters and urge you to help. It will take over 70,000 valid signatures to put SB1516 on the November ballot. That is no easy task, since we will have just 90 days after the Legislature adjourned to get all the signatures. In addition to your financial support, we need your volunteer help to succeed. We need petition gatherers, office support, organizers, fundraisers and public speakers.
If you would like to help with the referendum campaign you may sign up at: http://StopCorruptionNowAZ.com
In the short term, VPA will focus on getting signatures for the Referendum. Beyond that, we will get ready to put a full disclosure statute on the 2018 ballot. All those names you gathered on petitions will be our starting point. Over 50,000 strong, they are the foundation for the next phase. Plus, VPA will continue to keep a close eye on dark money and report whenever it pops up in Arizona. Stay tuned!
I am disappointed as I know you are. I spent much of the past two years researching the best ways to expose dark money and drafting a tough anti-dark money statute. I know how many hours have been spent circulating the Initiative petitions. I am proud of what we have done and cannot tell you how grateful I am for all that hard work.
I learned early in politics that the first try often doesn’t get you to the top, but it builds the strength for later success. Persistence pays! Are you with me for this extended quest to stop dark money in Arizona? With your help, I know we can do it,
There is another more aggressive “dark money” initiative, the Arizona Clean and Accountable Elections Act, being circulated by the Arizona Advocacy Network. You should sign and support this initiative as well as the two referendum petitions. It’s time to go to war against the “dark money” networks operating in this state.
Click here for full text of initiative: PDF.
There is another initiative filed designed to confuse the public, the so-called Clean Elections Reform Act, I-26-2016, by the Our Money for Our Kids, Not Politicians Committee, which seeks to defund the Citizens Clean Elections Committee by requiring that “proceeds from surcharges imposed on civil and criminal fines and penalties and from certain other sources be deposited in the Classroom Site Fund, rather than in the Citizens Clean Elections Commission Fund.” They tried to get our lawless Tea-Publican legislature to refer this measure to the ballot, but it died in the waning days of the legislative session. Do not be fooled by this deceptive initiative.