To heck with what 9 out of 10 voters say. Tempe has been outmaneuvered on dark money

By Laurie Roberts, AZ Central

Reason No. 10.8 million that the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative must make next year’s ballot (the first 10.7 million reasons having to do with Arizona Public Service):

The Attorney General has decided Tempe’s sunshine ordinance – the one approved by nine out of 10 Tempe voters a year ago – doesn’t violate state law.

But if the city tries to actually enforce the overwhelming will of Tempe voters by forcing non-profit dark money groups to tell us who is bankrolling their campaigns …

Well, then, that would be illegal, the AG’s office says.

The only way this is going to change

Once again, the desires of Gov. Doug Ducey and the GOP-controlled Legislature to keep secrets trump the desires of voters who in poll after poll have said we should know who is trying to buy our elections.

That’s not going to change, unless voters (read: you) step in. Like, say, by getting involved now in the drive to put Outlaw Dirty Money 2.0 on the 2020 ballot.

It is, of course, a given that Arizona voters should know who is bankrolling these non-profit groups that are spending millions to get us to vote a certain way.

No utility – not even one that gives generously to state and legislative leaders – should be able hide their multi-million-dollar dark-money campaigns to elect regulators who will in turn boost their profits by raising your rates. 

Yet the Legislature not only has blocked efforts to require disclosure, it has actually expanded the law to allow more campaign spending by anonymous interests.

Tempe voters vs. GOP lawmakers: Who wins?

Last year, after Tempe voters dared to amend their city charter, requiring disclosure of anyone who spends $1,000 or more to influence a city election, state leaders sprung into action.

Within weeks, the Legislature passed and Ducey signed a law barring cities from requiring dark money non-profits to disclose the original source of their funding.

The sponsor of that new bill, Rep. Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, then filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, claiming that Tempe was violating state law.

Thus comes the AG’s opinion essentially consigning Tempe voters’ wishes to the scrapheap.

The AG notes that the Tempe ordinance predated legislation designed to stop cities from forcing dark money non-profits to disclose their major donors and didn’t specifically mention non-profits. But if city officials try to force disclosure by dark money non-profits, they’ll be violating that state law.

In other words, if the city does what its citizens wanted, the city will run afoul of our Republican state leaders want.

Outlaw Dirty Money 2020 needs your help

Making it clearer than ever that if we want sunshine here in the Valley of Darkness, we going to have to go around our leaders to get it.

Outlaw Dirty Money 2020 would amend the state constitution, requiring any non-profit group spending more than $20,000 on a statewide campaign ($10,000 for local races) to disclose all donors who contributed at least $5,000.

It’ll take a monster effort to get this before voters. This is an all-volunteer campaign and the goal is to collect an unheard-of 500,000 signatures to counter the inevitable pushback from the powers-that-be who will spare no expense to keep ODM off the ballot and their hidden pals safely in the shadows.

If you’re interested, you can find information at or on the group’s Facebook page.

For this initiative effort to succeed – for you to actually know who is trying to buy your vote and Arizona’s elections – you are going to have to take a stand. 

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Pausing Campaign

Statement from Co-Chairs of the Outlaw Dirty Money Initiative Drive

With heavy hearts but a strong commitment to Arizona’s public health, we announce today that the Outlaw Dirty Money Constitutional Amendment campaign otherwise known as the “Citizens Right to Know Initiative” has paused all person to person efforts to gather petition signatures.

This suspension will last until our public health experts and our elected leaders deem it prudent for our volunteers and paid gatherers to resume public contact.  At that time, we will decide if enough time is left to gather enough signatures to put the issue of transparency in Arizona campaign finance before the voters in November.  

During this pause, Outlaw Dirty Money will keep working with our army of volunteers, ready to act when the health crisis abates.  In the meantime, they will do all possible to gather signatures without person to person contact. If you would like to help that effort, please contact us at or call 602-633-5146.  If you support the suggested legislation changes, we encourage you to contact your legislator at

Co-chairs of Voters’ Right to Know initiative, 

  • Terry Goddard
  • Grant Woods
  • Paul Johnson
  • Helene and Jim Babbitt
  • Robert Bertrand
  • Nan and Dick Walden
  • Tom Horne