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.