Donna Gratehouse and I have been warning you about the proposed marriage of convenience between former Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson’s Open Primaries Arizona (“top two” electoral system) initiative, and former Arizona Attorney General (and Phoenix mayor) Terry Goddard’s “dark money disclosure” initiative. As Donna rightly questioned, What is Terry Goddard thinking??
Paul Johnson’s Open Primaries Arizona is a “dark money” organization, engaged in practices that Terry Goddard’s initiative seeks to regulate with “dark money disclosure.” This proposed marriage of convenience appears hypocritical. Group fighting ‘dark money’ accused of hiding own funding:
A group working to change election laws and tighten up rules on “dark money” is facing a complaint that it is illegally hiding the source of its own cash.
Paul Johnson is taking donations and spending money to craft an initiative for the 2016 ballot, said Tim LaSota, attorney for the Arizona Republican Party. LaSota said that means he needs to comply with campaign finance laws.
But Johnson, who was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for governor in 1998 and previously was mayor of Phoenix, said he is doing nothing illegal.
He said the requirement to report is triggered by coming up with specific language to put on the ballot, something that has not yet occurred. Only then, Johnson said, need he disclose who is financing the effort.
Johnson is looking to deal with two issues.
One would have all candidates run in a wide-open primary. Then the top two vote-getters in each race would face off in the general election, regardless of party affiliation. The other is aimed at tightening up laws that currently permit certain groups that spend money to elect candidates to avoid disclosing the true source of their funding. [This is actually Terry Goddard’s initiative.]
The amount of “dark money” became a big concern in last year’s statewide election. In last year’s gubernatorial race, for example, the $5 million spent on the general election directly 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, raising questions about how much came from Arizona Public Service.
A spokesman for Open Primaries, the national organization working with Johnson, said it has given $100,000 to his nonprofit organization crafting the measure. Johnson, however, would neither confirm nor deny the contribution.
“I’m going to disclose that when I’m supposed to,” he said.
LaSota said that is now.
He cites a section of law that requires reports to be filed by any “committee acting in support of or opposition to the qualification, passage or defeat or an initiative.” That includes not just filing reports on a regularly scheduled basis but also requiring immediate disclosure of any donation of at least $10,000.
LaSota said Johnson formed a committee in 2014 under the name Open Nonpartisan Elections. He contends that Johnson, in drafting the ballot measure, is acting to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Johnson, however, said that 2014 committee was not about this proposal. And he said he is not required to form a new committee, the event that would trigger the reporting, until this measure is ready.
LaSota chided Johnson’s arguments, pointing out that one goal of the group is to give voters a better idea of who is trying to influence elections.
“But when it comes to them filing the reports that are required currently by law, it’s trying to find loopholes and excuses,” he said.
Johnson denied he is violating any law or taking advantage of any loophole, firing back at LaSota and his client.
“I’m not going to tip off the king of the dark money group how much they need to be raising … until the law says we have to,” he said.
“But I can tell you this: We are going to disclose 100 percent,” Johnson continued. “I’d love to see them disclose the dark money they’re getting into the Republican Party to oppose this.”
This proposed marriage of convenience has to end. Terry Goddard needs to disassociate himself and his “dark money disclosure” initiative — something Arizona needs — from Paul Johnson and his Open Primaries Arizona (“top two” electoral system) initiative, something Arizonans have already rejected and should do so again. Goddard can’t claim to be opposed to dark money when he is working with an organization that accepts dark money. Go your separate ways.