Superior Court Judge Rules In Favor of The Stop Dark Money Initiative

I’m not sure why the political reporters in this state have not reported on this, but Republic columnist Laurie Roberts reports that the Voters’ Right to Know Act aka the Stop Dark Money inititiative survived its Superior Court challlenge from the very same dark money groups (expect an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court).

Laurie Roberts writes, Score one for sunshine: Judge refuses to kill Arizona’s ‘dark money’ disclosure initiative:

Arizona voters just moved one step closer to finding out who is trying to buy our elections.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on Wednesday rejected a plea by the “dark money” crowd to keep us, well, in the dark.

Judge Joseph Mikitish wasn’t buying any of the phony baloney arguments aimed at denying voters the right to decide whether deep-pocketed donors should be able to secretly fund campaigns to get their picks elected to run this state.

It’s a long-awaited win for Terry Goddard and his grassroots group of volunteers, who for four years have been trying to get a dark money disclosure initiative on the ballot. More importantly, it’s a win for voters, who have the constitutional right to make laws at the ballot box.

No matter how hard the Arizona Legislature works to block voters from exercising that right.

They want the right to secretly influence your vote

More than 350,000 Arizona voters signed petitions to put the Voters’ Right to Know Act on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Under the proposal, any nonprofit or political party spending $50,000 or more on any combination of statewide races would have to disclose all donors who contributed more than $5,000 to a campaign, regardless of whether the money was passed through intermediary groups. For local races, the threshold would be $25,000.

Predictably, the power set is not pleased at the thought of all that sunshine. They believe the well-to-do have a First Amendment right to spend whatever they wish to secretly manipulate your vote.

The Darkside: The Goldwater Institute along with a trio of dark money groups – the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, Americans for Prosperity and the Center for Arizona Policy Actionfiled their lawsuit earlier this month, hoping to block the Voters’ Right to Know Act from ever reaching the ballot. [What, no Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry?]

The lawsuit doesn’t question the validity of any of those 350,000 voters’ signatures. Instead, it relies on a series of [Jim Crow 2.0 voter suppression] laws passed a few years ago [by our GQP controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Ducey], requiring judges to toss out initiatives for any minor infraction of the rules.

Judge didn’t buy their ‘wrong address’ claim

In this case, the dark money crowd is claiming the campaign listed the wrong address for where its paid circulators could be served with subpoenas and thus all of the signatures they collected should be tossed out. [Jim Crow 2.0.]

All 307,000 of them, which – wouldn’t you know it? – would leave the initiative way short of the number needed to put the issue before voters.

Specifically, that the circulators should have listed 514 W. Roosevelt – the address used last year when the campaign initially filed for a serial number – rather than 502 W. Roosevelt.

The two buildings are next to each other and share a parking lot. Both are used by the campaign but the 502 address, Goddard’s law office, is staffed all day, ensuring that someone is always there to accept service of any legal documents.

Mikitish sure didn’t see a problem, noting that “nothing in the statute requires the committee to have only one address.”

“The only requirement is that circulators provide an address that may be used for service of process,” he wrote.

You’d think the dark money groups would appreciate the ease with which they could serve their subpoenas.

Of course, this wasn’t really about addresses. It’s about finding some ticky-tack violation to block the voices of some 350,000 voters who want to put dark money disclosure on the ballot.

Naturally, the dark money groups plan to appeal, hoping against hope that a higher court will come to their rescue and throw out the dreaded intiative.

They know what’ll happen if the public gets a chance to vote.

Actually, they have a better chance at the Ducey-packed Arizona Supreme Court.

First issue: Justice Clint Bolick must recuse himself from this case because he used to lead the litigation unit at the “Kochtopus” Goldwater Institute, previously filing these kinds of lawsuits himself. A court of appeals judge (also likely a Ducey appointee) should be named to take his place on the panel for this case.

We are still waiting on judges to rule on the other two citizens initiatives that some of these same dark money groups are trying to keep off the ballot with the same ticky-tack type arguments made possible by the Jim Crow 2.0 voter suppression law passed by our GQP-controlled legislatureand signed by Gov. Ducey.

The Arizonans for Fair Elections initiative, seeking to overturn the latest Jim Crow 2.0 voter suppression acts from our GQP-controlled Arizona legislature and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey is also under consideration by Judge Joseph Mikitish. The evidentiary hearing was this week. A ruling is pending.

The challenge to the Predatory Debt Collection Protection Act initiative is being considered by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank Moskowitz, who heard arguments last week. A ruling is pending.