What is it about? Simple. There are people trying to control our elections. They spend huge amounts of what’s called “Dirty Money” to defeat some candidates and elect others.
They are powerful and wealthy. And right now they are hiding from view so we don’t know exactly who they are or what their agenda is all about. We do know that they are growing stronger with every election, putting their candidates in the legislature, on school boards and even statewide offices.
We believe that is wrong and something needs to be done about it while there is still time. The answer is a Constitutional Amendment requiring disclosure of who is really paying for campaigns.
It’s called the “Stop Political Dirty Money Amendment.”
It clearly establishes the right of every Arizonan to know who is behind the “Dirty Money.” It is the “Right to Know.”
First we must collect about 300,000 petition signatures of Arizona registered voters, enough to put the “Stop Political Dirty Money Amendment” on the November 2018 ballot.
Once we’re on the ballot we campaign to help Arizonan’s stand up against the wealthy and powerful and their “Dirty Money.”
We know that given the chance over 80% of our fellow citizens will vote “Yes” to stop “Dirty Money” from polluting our elections. So we’re going to work hard to help everyone out to vote.
Collecting thousands of petition signatures is a challenge and we’re lucky to have volunteers from all over Arizona pitching in to help.
If you’re not sure how you’d like to help visit our volunteer page. There you’ll see dozens of opportunities for you to help fight against “Dirty Money.”
Let’s face it, we can’t match the amounts of cash the powerful and wealthy are using to try and buy their way into our state. But if we all donate just a little we’ll be more than ready to fight back when they start to attack us. And they will attack us.
You’ll see many references to “dark money,” the term that was once used to describe anonymous political money from undisclosed sources.
The term now that we know how widespread and dangerous it is has become “Dirty Money.”
We believe Arizona voters have the right to know who is paying for political ads and to make voting decisions based on complete information.
If this is hard, it is because someone spent a ton of money on expensive lawyers to find clever ways to hide their participation in Arizona elections from you and me. To wipe their fingerprints off the knife. To keep us in the dark.
Our Outlaw Dirty Money Amendment takes a simple approach. It cuts through the deceptive mumbo jumbo. It will force the person who spends money over $10,000 to influence an Arizona election to tell us where that money came from. And, to tell us the “original source” of all contributions over $2,500.
That means telling Arizona voters what person or corporation actually earned the money. If this Constitutional Amendment is placed on the ballot by citizen signatures and approved by the voters, Arizona will no longer tolerate dirty money contributors hiding behind a barricade of innocent-sounding organizations that have only one purpose: to keep us in the dark.
The Outlaw Dirty Money Constitutional Amendment is important because all across Arizona and America, people are losing faith in our political system. They don’t know what or who to believe. When millions of dollars are going into campaign advertising, but we have no idea who is trying to influence our vote or why, public skepticism rightfully explodes.
This Amendment is important because Arizona officials and legislators have made it incredibly easy to hide the sources of dirty money. It is important because, in Arizona, dirty money has literally swamped our elections. Every statewide elected official but one was elected with the help of dirty money.
Plus, it is important because when the real source of campaign money is hidden, when no one is responsible for the content, ads get even more cutting and negative. Everyone knows how quickly Internet conversations descend into the mire when authors can stay anonymous, even more so with campaign ads. Our Constitutional Amendment calls for a return to responsible accountability.
The Dirty Money people are always saying that. But what they never tell you is nobody is trying to prevent them from their free speech rights. They can say what they want, but we have a right to know who they are.
They also don’t tell you that there is no “right to hide” in our Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has said over and over that full disclosure is not only allowed, it is required. That scares the Dirty Money people because hiding has worked for them.
This is a matter of “courage vs. cowardice.”
Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia put it this way:
“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 … even exercises (of) the direct democracy of initiative and referendum (are) hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.” (Doe vs. Reed)
The OutLaw Dirty Money campaign is working to amend the Arizona Constitution to ensure all citizens have the “right to know” the source of political funding. This is a bipartisan effort and everyone is welcome to help get this important Amendment on the ballot.
Gov. Doug Ducey slid into office with a little help from his secret friends. Anonymous interests spent at least $5.2 million to make sure that he became governor of Arizona. Among the dark-money groups that supported him or spent money to clear out his competition: the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, Veterans for a Strong America, the 60 Plus Association, American Encore, Concerned Women Legislative Action Committee and the Legacy Foundation Action Fund. All six groups have ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Kochs’ secretive network of conservative donors.
Arizona Corporation Commissioners Doug Little and Tom Forese rode onto the five-person commission that sets utility rates with $3.2 million of help from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and Save Our Future Now. APS – whose profits are heavily dependent on the commissioners’ decisions — is widely believed to have fronted the campaign for the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which in turn funded Save Our Future
Secretary of State Michele Reagan won a hotly contested GOP primary despite a jaw dropping $752,000 in dark money spent on Justin Pierce. The Arizona Free Enterprise Club bankrolled the campaign to plow the road for Pierce, who happens to be the son of then-Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce. The strategy backfired amid suspicions about who was dropping so much dough into the race.
State Superintendent Diane Douglas was elected despite the efforts of the dark money group Stand for Children Inc., funded in part by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and in part by Stand For Children Inc., a national education-focused non-profit. Stand for Children dumped $394,000 into defeating Douglas and electing Democrat David Garcia.
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club was the state’s largest dark money operation in 2014, spending $1.73 million to get you to vote a certain way. It was followed by 60 plus ($1.69 million) and American Encore ($1.46 million). In addition to backing Ducey for governor and Forese and Little for the Corporation Commission and Pierce for secretary of state, it spent nearly $300,000 trying to elect the most conservative Legislature possible.
State Legislators the group backed: Republican Sens. Sylvia Allen of Snowflake and David Farnsworth of Mesa. Also, Republican Reps. Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff, Brenda Barton of Payson, Jill Norgaard of Phoenix, Paul Boyer Phoenix, Anthony Kern of Glendale, Steve Montenegro and Darin Mitchell of Litchfield Park, Steve Smith of Maricopa, Rusty Bowers of Mesa, Vince Leach of Tucson and Mark Finchem of R-Oro Valley. Legislators the group opposed: Democratic Sen. Barbara McGuire of Kearney and Reps. Eric Meyer, D-Phoenix, Bob Robson, R-Chandler, Bob Worsley, R-Mesa and Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction.
Here are the top 10 legislators to benefit from dark money in 2014. Nine of them voted for SB 1516, the dark money expansion law. The 10th, Sen. Catherine Miranda, never recorded a vote on the bill.
Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, scored the biggest dark money boost of any legislator. Worsley enjoyed nearly $120,000 worth of secret help to fend off a strong challenge from Republican Ralph Heap. The Arizona Business Coalition, Stand for Children and Arizona 2014 backed Worsley. Heap attracted $42,000 in dark money support.
Sen. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, won her south Phoenix seat with more than $113,000 of anonymous help. Her secret admirers included the Koch-connected Save Our Future Now along with Arizona 2014 and Friends of Arizona . Her Democratic opponent, Aaron Marquez, attracted nearly $24,000 in dark money support from New Politics.
Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, benefited from nearly $73,000 in dark money. The Arizona Free Enterprise Club, the American Federation for Children and the Center for Arizona Policy Action spent big to ensure that Allen defeated independent Tom O’Halleran.
Sen. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, attracted at least $68,000 in anonymous support as he battled former state GOP Chairman Tom Morrissey in this swing district. Among his dark money supporters: Stand for Children, American Federation for Children, Arizona Residents Council, Arizona Business Coalition and Arizona Chamber Jobs.
Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, enjoyed $44,000 in dark money help against a primary challenge from former Rep. John Fillmore. The Arizona Business Coalition, Stand for Children and the American Federation for Children backed Coleman. Meanwhile, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and American Federation for Children (yeah, same group that supported him) spent $54,000 to oppose him.
Sen. Carlyle Begay, then D Ganado, benefited from $44,000 in dark money help to defeat three candidates who attracted no dark money support. Begay’s dark money support came from Friends of Arizona and the American Federation for Children. Begay has since become a Republican.
Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, benefited from $43,000 in dark money support. His backers were the Arizona Business Coalition, Stand for Children and the Arizona Residents Council. Meanwhile, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club plunked down more than $40,000 to defeat him.
Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, enjoyed at least $38,000 in secret help. His fan club funneled money through the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, American Federation for Children and Center for Arizona Policy Action. Smith’s opponent, Scott Bartle, enjoyed $81,000 in dark money support.
Rep. Jill Norgaard, R-Phoenix, attracted more than $37,000 in dark money support, from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and American Federation for Children. Her Republican challenger John King got more than $22,000 in dark money support.
Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, got $36,000 in dark money help, courtesy of the Center for Arizona Policy Action and the American Federation for Children. That, however, is dwarfed by the more than $93,000 dark money drive to replace him with Republican Jeff Schwartz.
Why does “Dirty Money” exist in the first place? The answer is really pretty simple: The powerful and wealthy who are paying for Dirty Money campaigns don’t want you to know who they are. Okay. But that just begs the question, “why not?”
Common sense has an answer: Because if you knew who they are and what they really want, they couldn’t influence you or our elections. For instance, its pretty unlikely that you’re going to see a television/internet commercial featuring the Koch Brothers telling you that they’re spending their money to buy enough votes to control the Arizona legislature. Or a governor. Or a citizen’s initiative. Simply put, they are afraid of putting their mouths where their money is. Here’s what the late Justice Antonin Scalia had to say:
“There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance. 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.”
-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
- The Dark Team
- Free Enterprise Club
- Sixty Plus Association
- Crossroads GPS
- American Action Network
- Americans for Prosperity
- Club for Growth
- Center to Protect Patients Rights
- American Future Fund
- Freedom Partners
- Americans for Responsible Leadership
- Americans for Job Security
- American Encore
In 2012, the generically named Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL), a nonprofit reported to be funded by the Koch brothers, funded more than half the advertising to block a citizens’ ballot initiative to maintain a one-cent-per-dollar sales tax that helped fund Arizona’s public schools.
The state legislature had in previous years cut other K-12 education funding by nearly one-fifth. Anti-initiative ads issued dire warnings: “Prop 204 raises taxes $1 billion a year, not to support students but to fund bigger bureaucracy with no education reform. And with no guarantee the money will ever reach the classroom.”
That same year California authorities sued ARL over its secretive spending, forcing some degree of disclosure of ARL’s donors a few days before Arizonans voted on the school-funding measure.
But that disclosure revealed merely a list of other nonprofit groups and PACs.
The tax measure was soundly defeated. A year later, Arizona’s per-pupil spending ranked third lowest in the nation.
By 2015 more than 40 of Arizona’s 230 school districts had shrunk the school week to four days, to save on electricity and other basic costs.
Not content with blocking schools funding in Arizona, Dirty Money gushed into the state to oppose a citizens petition drive to block a greatly expanded school voucher program. The legislation was signed into law by Governor Dough Ducey and the a citizens group was petitioning to block it from taking effect with a referendum.
They needed thousands of petition signatures to get the job done. When the signatures were counted the group, Save Our Schools Arizona, had collected more than 100,000 and the legislation was automatically blocked from taking effect.
But that was just the beginning. A Dirty Money group funded by Washington, D.C. deep pockets launched lawsuits against the citizens using high priced attorneys. They tried to have the petitions invalidated, looking for any technicality they could find and came up empty.
But the story isn’t over yet. American Federation for Children, a Dirty Money group that does not disclose the source of its financial donors, was behind the voucher program last legislative session. They also started pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into 2016 legislative races to help elect lawmakers favorable to its agenda. It’s expected the legislators will try to pass another voucher bill testing how well the Dirty Money group was able to elect their legislative candidates.
In the meantime, American Federation for Children groups started big direct mail campaigns and posting testimonials from parents who support the vouchers. These are the first steps in what is expected to be a massive Dirty Money assault against the citizens’ referendum on the November 2018 ballot.
In Arizona, which at $10.3 million in 2014 had by far the greatest amount of dark money in any cycle of the states we examined, “politics have changed dramatically since Citizens United as a direct result of dark money,” according to Chris Herstam, currently a lobbyist who once served as Republican majority whip in the state House and as chief of staff to a Republican governor. “In my 33 years in Arizona politics and government, dark money is the most corrupting influence I have seen,” he said, criticizing a recent move by the legislature to end state oversight of nonprofit groups’ political spending.
“Without adequate disclosure laws, Arizonans do not know for sure who is purchasing their elected offices. And we, the citizens, don’t have the proof to make it an issue and take a stand against it in any particular election,” he said. He argued that the effect of dark money is more profound on a smaller political scale: “While dark money gets a lot of national publicity, it is having a monstrous effect in Arizona.”
The Arizona Corporation Commission has jurisdiction over the state’s utilities, in addition to corporations. In recent years the Dirty Money started pounding away at the Commission elections knowing that the people elected would ultimately vote on utility rates and other critical issues.
It wasn’t pretty.
“It’s like a John Grisham-type setting because of how powerful the ads are,” recalled Vernon Parker, a Republican who ran in 2014 as a pro-solar candidate and lost at the primary stage after facing a flood of attack ads.
An African American who had previously won elections for city council and mayor in the conservative, majority-white town of Paradise Valley, Parker described the dark money onslaught as a political challenge of unprecedented magnitude. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” he said. News outlets have since reported that a major source of dark money funds likely was the state’s largest utility business, Arizona Public Service Company (APS).
Former commissioner Bill Mundell has accused APS (Arizona Public Service Company) of creating a “circle of corruption,” using profits from consumers to secretly fund ads to elect candidates who will favor APS over consumers. “Who do you think those commissioners are going to listen to when there’s a rate case pending? Are they going to listen to you or me, or will they listen to the APS executives?” he said at a 2016 appearance in his campaign to rejoin the commission, according to the Payson Roundup.
The company has not confirmed or denied funding specific ads. In 2014 it responded to stories of its alleged dark-money dealings with the general statement that “we routinely support public officials, candidates and causes that are pro-business and supportive of a sustainable energy future for Arizona,” stressing its “right to participate in the political process.”
The company told the utilities commission in 2013 that it had spent $3.7 million on “public relations work” to support a tax on solar households. It confirmed one six-figure donation to a social welfare nonprofit that donated to a super PAC advertising in the 2012 elections. But, because of gaping loopholes in Arizona’s disclosure laws, it is impossible to know the full extent of the company’s election-related activity through official records.
“Candidates have less control over their own races,” said Chris Herstam, the Arizona lobbyist and former state legislator, because of unaccountable, unlimited special interest advertising. “Legislative and state candidates now realize that more money is likely to be infused in their campaigns by outside expenditures than by their actual campaigns, and unfortunately the majority is funded by dark money.”
Kory Langhofer, an Arizona-based lawyer who advises nonprofits on their political spending: “With ballot measures the economic interests are much sharper than with candidate campaigns.” Ballot measure elections, which do not exist at the federal level, ask voters to directly decide specific questions about policies such as taxes, business oversight, and collective bargaining. Interest groups can spend tens of millions getting precisely the policies they want before voters and then promoting them, a more direct route to achieving their goals than lobbying law makers.
“The spectrum suggests that there will be a lot of money spent and not a lot of it will be disclosed,” Tom Collins Executive Director Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission said.
As for where the dark money will come from, the good guesses can sometimes be obvious. It can be as simple as identifying who holds the big ownership interests in line to be affected.
It also makes sense to wonder who or what is behind the biggest outside spending in a given contest — behind the TV ad blitzes and mountains of mailers — as it is simply so easy for well-resourced interests to dominate advertising in smaller contests through benignly-named entities. Moreover, with more dark money appearing in the guise of seemingly transparent PAC spending, via donations funneled through multiple groups, it is worth scrutinizing even PACs for their actual sponsors.
Where disclosures laws are weak and “as long as Citizens United isn’t overturned,” said Chris Herstam, a former Arizona legislator, “the wealthy donors further solidify their power and maintain their corrupt influence for years to come.”