Making up the Rules
A new report shows that Arizona gets poor marks for government accountability and transparency. A State Integrity Investigation gave the state a score of 64 – or a D. At least $15 million in dark money was spent on elections in 2014, which does not help the state’s reputation for transparency.
Recently, Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan railed against dark money and issued a statement vowing to “unveil faux corporations disguised as political committees.”
“Her words sound disingenuous,” Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix (District 24), said. “I’ve had several conversations with constituents and community groups who have pointed out that her targets seem selective, at best, and potentially politically driven, at worst.”
This year, Republicans revised Arizona election law regarding who must register as political committees and disclose where they get their money and how they spend it in elections. That new law allows an organization whose “primary purpose” is not influencing an election to hide its spending from the public. But how do you know what an organization’s “primary purpose” is? The new law doesn’t answer that question. And that’s just the way the Secretary of State’s office wants it.
The Clean Elections Commission stepped in and took action against shady groups that want to influence your vote and not tell you where they get their money or what their agenda is. The Commission adopted a rule that defines “primary purpose” and will require disclosure by organizations who meet that definition. This will allow voters to know who’s playing in their elections.
Arizonans deserve to know who is behind the curtain when it comes to campaign contributions. Since the secretary of state seems uninterested in pursuing this issue across the board, the Commission is taking the lead to #StopDarkMoney.
Following Rep. Ken Clark’s concerns about Secretary Reagan’s refusal to enforce many campaign finance complaints while vigorously enforcing a single campaign finance complaint against the Committee for Justice and Fairness, Rep. Clark looked further into which cases were dropped and whether there is a pattern.
Rep. Clark wants to make it clear that any group acting in an election, Republican or Democratic, should fully disclose its donors and its expenses, and it should be brought before the law if it does not.
“This is a very complex issue, but it is critical that folks understand. The secretary of state is right to ask the Committee for Justice and Fairness to follow the rules. But she needs to avoid the appearance of favoritism and to enforce the law even when groups on her side of the aisle are involved,” Clark said.
However, the appearance now is that the secretary of state is enforcing the law against only one group, which is a Democratic group, but is doing her utmost to avoid going after Republican groups that also failed to disclose their activity as required by the law.
The secretary of state points to the Galassini case as the reason she cannot enforce the laws against upwards of 20 groups. Yet there is another part of statute that was not part of that case, which has not been challenged (A.R.S. § 16-914.02(k)) and which could be used to bring light to these cases.
Here is a small sample of those cases:
- Save Our Future Now for possibly violating A.R.S. § 16-914.02(K)
- Arizona Public Integrity Alliance for possibly violating A.R.S. § 16-914.02(K)
- AG Brnovich and State Conservative Reform Action PAC for illegal coordination (Symington complaint)
- State Conservative Reform Action PAC for possibly violating A.R.S. § 16-914.02(K) (Symington complaint)
- Failure to provide copies of IE ads via mail (A.R.S. § 16-917 violations)
- Arizona Liberty Alliance PAC mailers against Mitchell and Stevens (Querard complaint)
- 60 Plus Association ads against Terry Goddard (Goddard complaint)
Some of these groups represent Republican-on-Republican battles. Two of them are cases where groups were targeting Democrats.
In other words, the secretary of state is conveniently going after groups on the left, but letting off the hook groups on the right — some of which may have helped her friends get into office.
“This is a great example of why we need to have an independent campaign finance enforcement body in Arizona,” Clark said.