Lifting the Veil
Former Arizona AG pursues state constitutional amendment to require disclosure with major campaign contributions
Terry Goddard, Arizona's former attorney general, is back with a statewide initiative drive that would attempt to lift the veil on anonymous campaign contributions.
Goddard has launched the Outlaw Dirty Money campaign to counter the growing influence of what most political journalists call "dark money," or contributions to a campaign hidden behind nonprofit organizations. Goddard has taken to calling those contributions "dirty money."
"What we're talking about is anonymous contributions," Goddard said. "In other words, someone who puts money—and in some cases, we're talking about substantial amounts of money, millions of dollars—into advertisements for or against a candidate but they don't want anyone to know who they are, so they use a number of legal tricks to try to avoid disclosure."
The initiative seeks to amend the Arizona Constitution to include the Voters' Right to Know Amendment, which would require the disclosure of the name of anyone who gives more than $5,000 to a political campaign. It includes provisions to require the original donor, rather than a feel-good name of an organization like Citizens for a Better Whatever.
The increase in dark-money spending—which happens on both sides of the political aisle—is a consequence of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which opened the door to corporate donations to political campaigns.
"They started putting millions of dollars into campaigns," Goddard said. "They actually increased the cost of running in Arizona by about five times. If you could run for office for $100,000, after Citizens United, it was more like $500,000. I was a candidate in those days and I saw it happen."
In one prominent case, a major Arizona utility, Arizona Public Service, recently admitted spending millions of dollars through intermediaries to ensure friendly Republican regulators were elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission, which oversees utilities. For years, APS had refused to confirm or deny it was behind the ads, but after the makeup of the Corporation Commission changed in last year's election, APS 'fessed up last month.
"The astonishing fact that APS hid their massive involvement in Arizona elections, especially in the 2014 Corporation Commission election, is exactly why we must Outlaw Dirty Money," Goddard said. "With the Outlaw Dirty Money amendment in the Arizona Constitution, voters will know before they vote who is trying to buy our elections, instead of five years later."
Goddard brushes off criticism that anonymous speech is a time-honored tradition in American politics that's vital to protecting big donors from retaliation or harassment from angry voters.
"We have a specific provision that if someone says they or their family face a serious risk of harm, they can petition the Clean Elections Commission that their name not be disclosed," Goddard said. "We took that very seriously. But there's no right to hide in the American Constitution. We all have the right to speak freely, and we have the right to speak anonymously, if we want to. But we don't have the right to buy millions of dollars of advertising and not take responsibility for what we are saying. There's a big difference between just speech and speech through a huge microphone, and that's what these billionaires have and what they want to protect."
Goddard has found some bipartisan support: Republican Tom Horne, who also served as Arizona's attorney general, is co-chairing the effort.
To qualify for the ballot, the Outlaw Dirty Money campaign would need to gather at least 356,467 valid signatures from registered voters by July 2, 2020. But given that many people sign petitions even if they are not registered voters, Goddard will need many more signatures.
Goddard worked a similar effort in 2018, but it didn't make the ballot after opponents of the plan were able to get it knocked off the ballot by using a relatively new law that allows opponents of an initiative to subpoena petition passers. When the petition passers didn't show up in court, all the signatures they gathered were disqualified.
Learn more about the initiative, visit outlawdirtymoney.com.
Dash for cash, updated
New fundraising numbers in the mayor's race
A few weeks back, The Skinny reported on how much money Tucson's Democratic mayoral candidates had raised as of March 31. But Councilwoman Regina Romero has filed a subsequent report that revealed she had raised more money than we originally reported.
Romero had raised $76,156, but that number is doubled because Romero has qualified for public matching funds under the city's version of Clean Elections, which provides a dollar-for-dollar match for participating candidates.
Steve Farley, who is coming off an unsuccessful run for governor, reported raising $129,593. He had $99,092 in the bank.
Developer Randi Dorman, who is making her first run for public office, raised $93,324 and still had $63,674 in the bank.
Adman Ed Ackerley, who is running as an independent, had raised just $6,743 and had $3,433 in bank.
The various other candidates in the mayoral race reported raising next to nothing.