Former Attorney General Terry Goddard called on Arizonans to sign petitions to put the Stop Dark Money initiative on the 2022 ballot. Speaking at the August 2, 2021, meeting of Democrats of Greater Tucson, he said, “Dark money is a major threat to our democracy. You have no idea who the folks are paying for a political ad and you can’t evaluate the message, because you don’t know who the real messenger is.”
“So let’s get rid of it. Let’s put it all out in the open and make clear who it is that’s behind the political ads,” he said.
Dark money corruption from APS
The most glaring example of Dark Money’s corrupting effect was when utility company APS spent $10.7 million in 2014 to elect two Republican members of the Arizona Corporation Commission. Once elected, the corrupt officials voted for a $95 million rate increase for APS, which kept its donations secret for years. “So that’s the kind of thing that needs to be stopped,” Goddard said.
|To help stop Dark Money in Arizona politics, visit www.stopdarkmoney.com. Petitions are available at Pima County Democratic Headquarters at 4639 E. First St., Tucson, AZ 85711.
This is the third campaign to stop dark money. In 2018, the Arizona Supreme Court misread the facts and kicked the initiative off the ballot. In 2020, Covid force the campaign to stop when it already had 300,000 signatures. This time, the campaign needs a minimum of 237,645 valid signatures from registered voters by July 2022.
- Affirms that Arizonans have the Right to Know the original source of all money spent to influence their votes.
- Requires all contributions over $5,001 used for campaign media to disclose the original source of the money
- The Citizens Clean Elections Commission will write the rules and enforce them
- Has a new name: Stop Dark Money vs. Outlaw Dirty Money
- Its triggers are higher, but now they apply to all campaign spending in an election cycle.
- Donors can opt out of disclosure by saying they prefer their donation not be spent on media ads.
“We’re going after the big donors,” Goddard said. “The right to know is the thing that we’re going to put into law in the state of Arizona.” Even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in 2010, “For my part, I do not look forward to a society which campaigns anonymously and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.”
“Arizona is number one for allowing people to hide their contributions, because in Arizona the law allows 501(c)(4) advocacy nonprofits and you want to spend money to influence an election. You just spend it,” Goddard said. “You don’t have to disclose anything. You don’t have to say where the money is coming from at all. And I think that is wrong.”
Goddard expects fierce opposition to the initiative from corporations and wealthy people. “They spent millions of dollars going after us in 2018. They literally set every petition signature overseas to Hong Kong and were able to pay them to check every single signature to see if they were by a registered voter.”
The notorious “Americans for Prosperity,” a front group for the right-wing henchman Charles Koch was the main attacker in 2018. “I expect them to be back. They have unlimited funds and I expect them to spend it. And I think we’re ready,” Goddard said.
The standard attack on the initiative is that it violates donors’ privacy. “After I stopped laughing, I did take that point seriously,” Goddard said. “We’re focused on large contributors who can take care of themselves. There is no evidence that disclosure is going to cause harassment. But if they feel they or their family are going to suffer physical harm because of the disclosure, they can ask the commission for an exemption.”
Goddard acknowledged that unscrupulous donors could collect multiple donations just under the $5,000 limit to amass a large donation. Corporations do this by forcing all their employees to make small donations, and then reimbursing them. “But we have a very good money laundering statute in Arizona, which basically says that it is a felony to disguise the source of your funds,” Goddard said. “Also there are some fraud provision in Arizona law which would come into play.”
“If we pass this initiative we would go from last the first in terms of disclosure. I believe it’s the most far reaching of the state efforts. And right now, Arizona is in last place because we are the most permissive most liberal if you will, about dark money contributors,” he said.
The Stop Dark Money initiative was drafted with the help of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, which also wrote HR1, the For the People Act, which ends voter suppression in many forms and has disclosure proposition to stop dark money.
Recent polls have shown the initiative to be 80-85% favorable in Arizona, with broad support from Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters. “We can be very effective as individual citizens, just having the petition in the car in your purse or in your back pocket.”