Your Turn: Why we're fighting to keep dirty money out of Arizona elections

American money folded and arranged to resemble a fan

Reform campaign rules: Campaign-finance laws should be tightened to cap donations and force disclosure of donors to limit the influence of "dark money" groups and special interests. Registered lobbyists should be banned from campaign organizations and finance committees. (Photo: Getty Images)

Do Arizona voters have the “right to know” who is funding campaigns for and against candidates and propositions? We believe the answer is unquestionably yes.

However, in recent elections huge sums from carefully hidden sources (or "dirty money") have been spent on Arizona election campaigns. 

Secret manipulators of our elections can hide their identity because Arizona law makes it easy. We believe it is time to declare our right to know once and for all by putting it in the Arizona constitution. 

Our Outlaw Dirty Money constitutional amendment, if approved at the polls in November, will ensure that we know what person or corporation was the original source of all major contributions seeking to influence an Arizona election.

All we want is transparency 

This initiative would give to Arizona much the same transparency in elections that Montana adopted two years ago. The sponsor of the Montana legislation, Republican state Sen. Duane Ankney has put the need for reform this way, “If someone is going to shoot me in the gut, I want to know who done the shooting.”

Our initiative states: “The People of Arizona have the right to know the identity of the original source of all major contributions used to pay, in whole or part, for a campaign expenditure.  This right requires the prompt, accessible, comprehensible and public disclosure of original sources.”

We are Republicans, Democrats and independents, current and former office holders. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. Regardless of whether the contribution source is a Koch or a Soros, from the right or the left, voters should know who is supporting the people who seek their vote. 

Arizona is ground zero for dirty money

At the national level, intelligence agencies tell us that foreign powers are still trying to manipulate American elections. They can get away with seeding chaos in our political system because we don’t require them to identify themselves.

How can we hold Facebook or other companies responsible for Russian meddling when we allow shell corporations to flood our election system with money and never reveal its original source? The answer is we can’t.

Our state has become the point of the dirty money spear. In the 2014 election, out of $28 million in non-candidate spending for statewide candidates, an estimated $18 million was dirty. That gives Arizona the highest participation of dirty money, as a percent of total election spending, in the entire country.

We believe all points of view have the right to contribute to political campaigns.  But, when contributors try to hide their identity, you can bet they want to fool you. They don’t want you to know their true intentions.  The same disclosure rules that apply to small contributors should apply to the rich and powerful – but today they don’t.

Constitution grants no right to hide

There is no right to hide in our Constitution. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia laid out the legal standard when he wrote, “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 and even exercise 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.”

The Outlaw Dirty Money petition drive has reached a critical stage. We need 225,000 valid signatures by the end of June to qualify a constitutional amendment for the ballot.

That’s a huge job, especially since we are depending on volunteers.  Since the kickoff last November, our campaign has gained momentum.

Hundreds of volunteers are hard at work getting signatures. We are also working hard to raise the money for basic expenses. Needless to say, all of our contributors will be publicly disclosed.

Polls say Arizonans want disclosure

Are Arizonans ready to reject secret funders controlling our elections?  Are we ready to reclaim our democracy? Polls show we are. 

In 2016, 86 percent favored full disclosure. Last month, an online poll among readers of Capitol Times showed 85 percent support for outlawing dirty money. The Arizona Republic and other media have been relentless in beating the drum for transparency in campaign funding.

We live in a time when it is easy to be cynical about our politics and our government. It is easy for voters to believe they have lost control of our political system to the rich and powerful. 

Our hope is that by outlawing dirty money Arizona will move a long way toward restoring faith in our democracy.

For more information go to https://www.outlawdirtymoney.com.

Republican Rep. Noel Campbell represents District 1. Paul Johnson, an independent, is a former Phoenix mayor. Republican Tom Horne is a former Arizona superintendent of public education and attorney general. Democrat Terry Goddard is a former Phoenix mayor and Arizona attorney general.

-Originally published by Terry Goddard, Tom Horne, Noel Campbell, and Paul Johnson with the Arizona Republic, March 3, 2018

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  • commented 2018-03-11 06:47:48 -0700
    Thank you so much for this dirty money campaign. It makes me feel hopeful.

    It’s amazing how dirty money is affecting ordinary people’s ability to be involved politically. It doesn’t matter whether the cause or the candidate is Republican or Democrat. If dirty money is against you, it is impossible to win. Dirty money from large donors (mostly billionaires) is changing local politics. At the local level, we can’t fight a campaign against the firehose of money. It would be an enormous step in the right direction to find out who sent the money to the school board candidate. Or who is paying for ads for the utility board. Basically, dirty money is removing local control and centralizing power for those who have money. All of us local people lose our power, and the super-wealthy around the country become King.

    My own interest in dirty money began with a personal cause. My children’s school district was considering moving to a four-day week because of budget cuts by the legislature. Many other parents and community members panicked at the same time and the school movement grew. SOSAz was ready to grow and to take political action. The volunteers who gathered signatures for the vouchers bill were very diverse politically. It was truly a bipartisan effort.

    Terry, I applaud you for looking for the same kind of bipartisan input and support. Our democracy deserves compromise. We are worth a government that works with us all. That’s impossible, however with billionaires and corporations controlling the political process at every level. They are especially interested in the more local levels like city council, state legislatures, even school board elections… which are supposed to be non-partisan.

    There is dirty money flowing into small elections in every corner of America.

    It took me a long time and lots of reading to figure out that dirty money is to blame for our education woes in Arizona. I gathered plenty of signatures this summer for Proposition 305. But I have to admit that my heart felt discouraged about stepping one inch forward while being pushed back miles by dirty money. It’s like I need to get out a megaphone and shout to the different groups campaigning for political causes like sensible gun laws and school funding: “There is no hope! You will never get ahead of the legislature! They will always have enough dirty money to pass another law against your cause! You will never succeed with the governor! He was elected by dirty money! He will pretend to support your cause by throwing a bone your way, then probably even take the bone away! You are wasting your time! Dirty money makes your advocacy impossible! Your voice is not worth anything anymore! Don’t bother!”

    So it’s not surprising that the entire population has given up on political involvement in many countries. They don’t want to be bothered with something hopeless. We still have so many hopeful people in the United States. I hope that they can read between the lines as they look for why their political causes are failing.

    It takes time to figure out why political advocacy doesn’t work anymore. People have to invest themselves in a bipartisan cause they believe in, and then ask themselves, why is there no room for middle ground? “It’s dirty money people!”
  • published this page in News & Updates 2018-03-03 11:55:23 -0700