Anonymous cash from foreign, out-of-state and secret donors is polluting our elections and making a mockery of democracy, said Former Attorney General Terry Goddard at a crowded meeting of Outlaw Dirty Money supporters.
The Outlaw Dirty Money initiative would amend the state constitution to require big election donors of more than $5,000 to disclose where the money originally came from. “Secretive ‘social welfare’ organizations are hiding what they’re all about,” Goddard told an audience of 75 at the Junior League of Tucson. “Arizona voters don’t know the source of the money and they don’t know who’s trying to persuade them.”
The event was co-sponsored by The Arizona Ground Game, League of Women Voters, UA Outlaw Dirty Money Wildcats Club, and Save Our Schools Arizona.
Utility steals an election to get a rate increase
“Dirty money does hurt you,” Goddard said, citing how the Arizona Public Service utility (APS) used millions in anonymous donations in 2014 to elect two Republican members of the Arizona Corporation Commission who later voted to give the utility a $95 million rate increase.
APS spent $10.7 million in secret donations to successfully attack two Republican primary candidates and later to attack two Democratic candidates in the race for Corporation Commission.
“There are now regulated utility henchmen in charge of how much APS can charge,” he said. “It wasn’t an election. It was an auction,” he said. “Sandra Kennedy was savaged in the election. They made her look like a criminal.”
Only after Kennedy was elected in 2018, and after years of investigation by Republican Commissioner Bob Burns, was APS identified as the source of the dirty money for the attack ads.
In 2018, a group named “Building a Better Phoenix” started receiving dark money from the infamous Koch brothers to stop the light rail extension in Phoenix. One of the Koch brother’s most profitable businesses is Flint Hills Resources LP, which is an oil refining company. To support oil profits from driving cars, the group fought better public transportation options. (Fortunately, an initiative to end light rail was defeated.)
No right to hide
The notorious 2010 US Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United held that corporations are people, spending money is freedom of speech, and corporations can spend all they want in American elections.
“However the court did not say you have a right to hide or to secret your participation secret in buying advertising in an election,” Goddard said. The court praised a citizen’s right to know who made the donation but it did not require disclosure.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia even said, “Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously . . . hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.”
Going after the big anonymous donors
This is where the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative comes into play. It requires:
- An individual, corporation, partnership or association that spends more than $20,000 in a state election, or over $10,000 in a local campaign, to identify each original source that contributed $5,000 or more during an election cycle.
- The original source means the individual or corporation that earned the money. Intermediaries or “nonsense name” political fronts are not considered the original source.
- It does not require the disclosure of anyone who contributes less than $5,000 in a campaign.
- The Arizona Citizens Clen Elections Commission will implement the disclosure requirement.
- The penalty for a violation may be up to three times the amount that was undisclosed or improperly disclosed.
- Any Arizona voter may file a complaint with the Commission against anyone that fails to comply with the disclosure requirements.
There is wide public support for the initiative. For example, voters in Phoenix (85% support) and Tempe (91% support) have passed similar measures in recent years, as have voters in California, New Mexico, and Montana.
An initiative is necessary because the Arizona Legislature has bent over backward to make hiding easier. In 2018 the Republican legislature and governor enacted a law to allow Dirty Money campaign contributions without any disclosure requirement.
To get on the ballot, the initiative must have 357,000 signatures from registered voters by July 2, 2020. To that end, Outlaw Dirty Money has set up 50 petition depots statewide and recruited more than 2,200 volunteers. Local petition depots are at:
- Central Tucson: Pima County Democratic Headquarters, 4639 E. 1st Street.
- Foothills: Gadarian & Cacy attorneys, 2200 E. River Road #123.
- North West: Tamarala Kreiswerth, 6501 N. Calle Lotte.
- Green Valley: Democratic Club of the Santa Rita Area, Continental Shopping Plaza, Suite 208.
More information is available at the organization’s new website at Outlawdirtymoney.com.