Supreme Court Orders Disclosure For Dark Money

The Supreme Court on Tuesday insisted that many donations to predominantly conservative political nonprofit groups — what's often called dark money — be disclosed, seven weeks ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The ruling closes, at least for now, a loophole that has allowed wealthy donors to finance aggressive ads while staying anonymous. Crafted by the Federal Election Commission nearly 40 years ago, the loophole flourished after the 2010 Citizens United ruling.

The court set aside an order issued by Chief Justice John Roberts on Saturday. The social welfare group Crossroads GPS, a defendant in the lawsuit, had fought to stall disclosure while it prepares to appeal. It failed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The disclosure requirement is expected to apply to explicitly political ads by nonprofit groups for the remaining weeks of the campaign season.

The decisions came in a 2016 lawsuit against Crossroads and the FEC, by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., last month ruled in CREW's favor. She gave the FEC 45 days to replace the regulation, which it didn't do.

CREW's executive director, Noah Bookbinder, said the Supreme Court ruling "is going to affect spending in the 2018 elections. Groups that run these kinds of ads — ads that tell you to vote for or against another candidate — are going to have to disclose their contributors, and that is incredibly important."

The Supreme Court's decision comes less than a week after a new research report by the government reform group Issue One, which puts some dollar amounts on what these unreported donors are giving. The report, which took a year of research, finds that the top 15 politically active nonprofits raised and spent more than $600 million on campaigns between 2010, when Citizens United boosted secret fundraising, and 2016.

The secret giving is made possible by a regulatory loophole at the FEC. The groups, usually organized as 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations or 501(c)(6) business associations, don't register as political committees with the commission. With the loophole, the FEC wants donor disclosure only when a donor earmarks the money for specific ads.

The top four spenders identified by Issue One are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the mainstream conservative Crossroads GPS, the Koch network's Americans for Prosperity and the National Rifle Association. Issue One says that collectively, the four groups pumped at least $357 million into elections between 2010 and 2016.

"Opaque organizations are using contributions from opaque donors and secretly funding election campaigns and ads that are urging viewers to vote for or against candidates," said Michael Beckel, research manager at Issue One. "And it remains very difficult to track back the true sources of dark money groups."

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity has launched AFP Action — a superPAC that will regularly report its donors to the FEC, sidestepping the disclosure controversy.

Originally written by Peter Overby. Posted by NPR.org on 09/18/2018.

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Rockin' Democracy!

Please join VPA in welcoming Dr. MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains. This book centers around the decades old campaign to suppress voting, defund education, destroy unions, and ultimately rewrite the constitution to serve the ultra-rich. Dr. MacLean will provide strategies to fight this well funded attack on our democracy. Join us on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd!

Speakers include Democratic Candidate for Governor David Garcia, Outlaw Dirty Money founder Terry Goddard and more.

Live music will be provided by The Harvest! Event RSVP Here!

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STATEMENT: Terry Goddard Update on Outlaw Dirty Money Ballot Initiative

It pains me deeply to report that the supreme court just ordered that the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative not appear on the ballot. 

For over a century, since the first days of statehood, Arizona legal tradition has protected the citizens' constitutional right of initiative and viewed with suspicion and strictly limited any rule or law which infringed on that right.  Sadly, with the simultaneous decision to throw #INVESTinEd off the ballot, this court abandoned that tradition today.  

The court affirmed a statute which calls for disqualifying signatures gathered by paid petition circulators who were subpoenaed as witnesses but did not appear.  The court saw nothing wrong with striking thousands of valid signatures as a "penalty" to the no-shows, regardless of the constitutional rights of the petition signers.  That, plus affirming the cynical way the subpoenas were served with no expectation that the ‘witnesses’ would ever know they were expected in court, is a bitter pill. 

Reviewing hundreds of our petitions the last few weeks and recalling the incredible effort that so many volunteers put into collecting over 285,000 signatures to put Outlaw Dirty Money on the ballot, has been inspiring.  I hope you are proud of what we accomplished. 

But, I know you share my disappointment that the voters of Arizona won't get the chance they deserved to decide whether they want Dirty Money to continue to make a mockery of our democracy.  

It is little comfort, I know, but the frantic, incredibly expensive effort by the Dirty Money forces in the weeks since our 285,000 signatures were filed to keep us off the ballot, was conclusive testimony of one thing: They had no doubt that if Arizona voters got the chance to vote on throwing Dirty Money out of our state, they would do it. 

We came so very close. 

Thank you for your months of effort, your many contributions and your faith in our cause.

Terry Goddard

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DARK MONEY: A Film by Kimberly Reed

DARK MONEY, a political thriller, examines one of the greatest present threats to American democracy: the influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials. The film takes viewers to Montana—a frontline in the fight to preserve fair elections nationwide—to follow an intrepid local journalist working to expose the real-life impacts of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Through this gripping story, DARK MONEY uncovers the shocking and vital truth of how American elections are bought and sold. This Sundance award-winning documentary is directed/produced by Kimberly Reed (PRODIGAL SONS) and produced by Katy Chevigny (E-TEAM).

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. You can read more about the film in this Variety review and click on this link to watch the trailer.

The film will be in Phoenix starting Friday, 8/10 through that week at the Harkins Shea 14.

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Our View: Why we support Outlaw Dark Money ballot initiative

 

Arizonans deserve to know who wants to buy their votes.

But they don’t.

Under current laws, they can’t.

Political non-profits can spend on TV spots, radio ads, robocalls, mailers other schemes to try to sway voters without disclosing the source of the money.

This anonymous cash – so-called dirty money – is corrosive to a system that is based on informed voters making educated choices.

Yet secret spending is becoming more ingrained in our elections.

Dark money played big role in 2014 election 

In 2014 – the last year Arizona elected a governor and slate of statewide officeholders – groups outside of the political campaigns spent $27.3 million ($12 million of it on the governor’s race).

At least 46 percent of that was dark-money spending by groups that don’t have to disclose their donors, according to reporting by The Republic.

People instinctively understand why this is wrong.

In March, a staggering 91 percent of voters in Tempe approved a measure to require political non-profits to disclose campaign spending in local races.

Politicians instinctively understand the potential benefit to them from anonymous spending.

Legislature, governor act to stop local efforts

This month, the Legislature passed and Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that prohibits cities from enforcing campaign rules just like the ones Tempe voters overwhelmingly approved.

The argument against disclosure is based on the idea that organizations with a broad donor base should be able to protect the privacy rights of members.

It’s a weak argument because individuals who donate more than $50 are already required to identify themselves.

Pooling money into a group that can keep campaign donors secret invites corruption.

Voters deserve to know who is spending to get a candidate elected. Why? Because in the real world, money comes with strings attached.

Informed public outweighs privacy argument

A candidate’s donor list is a more likely predictor of post-election behavior than a candidate’s stump speech.

That’s why voters need to see a complete list of donors.

It is why the importance of an informed electorate outweighs any arguments in favor of maintaining a cloak of invisibility for non-profit groups that are currently exempt from disclosure rules.

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard says dark money should be called "dirty money” because “it is polluting the system."

He is pushing an initiative called Outlaw Dirty Money, which would amend the state Constitution to give the people of Arizona the right to know who is trying to sway state elections.

Amending the state Constitution is a major step. It should not be done lightly.

Establish basic right for voters to know

But in this case, it would be done to establish a basic right for people to know who is giving money to influence elections. That is a necessary change that responds to a well-known problem.

The amendment doesn’t limit contributions. It doesn’t tell anyone not to use their money to exert political influence.

It simply requires transparency.

Instead of hiding behind innocuous-sounding titles like Citizens for Beautiful Sunrises, this amendment would require the names of donors.

According to the group’s website, the amendment "requires public disclosure of all contributors who give $2,500 or more to influence elections in a two-year election cycle, regardless of whether their contributions passed through any intermediaries."

Disclosure needs a statewide voter mandate

The value of transparency was clear to more than 90 percent of Tempe voters. The reaction of lawmakers and Ducey in retroactively preempting the will of those voters shows why this kind of disclosure won’t happen unless voters mandate it statewide.

But voters won’t get a chance to vote on the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative unless its supporters collect enough signatures by July to qualify for the ballot, and Goddard says they need more volunteers to help gather the target of 300,000 signatures.

“This single reform will allow voters to take control of our elections back from the faceless dirty money forces,” he said. “But, it won’t get on the November ballot unless a lot more good people stand up and do their part.”

Those who think transparency in campaign financing is a good idea should check out outlawdirtymoney.com

Anonymity and secrecy in elections are antithetical to our form of government. Why? Because you can’t make an informed choice unless you have information.

 

- Originally published by azcentral.com, written by Editorial Board, The Republic on 04/15/2018.

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How a Small City Is Taking on the Big Power of Dark Money

Tempe election

Dispatches from the Urban Resistance, from Tempe to Nashville and beyond.

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Arizona lawmakers favor anonymity in political spending

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Nine of 10 Tempe voters called for lifting the curtain on secretive money in city elections, but lawmakers this week passed a bill that would stop that. The measure now goes to the governor, who was a beneficiary of 'dark money' spending in his 2014 run for office.

"Dark money" refers to political non-profits that spend money on political ads, robocalls and other efforts to sway elections without any requirement to disclose donors. The Tempe measure would force the organizations to unveil financial backers if spending exceeds $1,000 in municipal elections. Phoenix is beginning to explore a similar measure

But House Bill 2153 would prohibit cities from enforcing such campaign-finance reforms. 

Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, the bill's sponsor, said the landslide passage of the Tempe measure on March 13 didn't deter him.

"Lots of people in my district want the right to remain anonymous and that's who I'm here to represent," Leach said. 

Leach and others say anonymity protects donors who fear retaliation for criticizing a politician.

Supporters of disclosure say voters should know who is spending to influence their vote. 

"The legislation will stymie efforts to shine a light on untraceable campaign spending by wealthy individuals, corporations and interest groups occurring in elections at all levels of government," Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego said. 

Some say the issue is likely to land in the courts.

What the bill does

The bill passed by the Senate on 16-13 vote that followed party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. 

The bill does four things: 

    • Non-profits in "good standing" with the IRS would not have to register as a political-action committee or PAC.
    • Non-profits would not have to disclose donor information.
    • Non-profits in good standing would not have to respond to audits, subpoenas or produce evidence regarding a "potential political campaign finance violation." 
    • Remove the requirement that a non-profit prove they are organized for the sole purpose of influencing an election.

 

 

- Originally written by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy and posted by azcentral.com on 03/29/2018.

 

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Roberts: Tempe voters say HELL NO to dark money. You listening, Gov. Ducey?

Laurie Roberts: Nine out of 10 Tempe voters said no to dark money. But will Arizona's leaders listen?

An astounding 91 percent of Tempe voters on Tuesday approved a charter amendment that would require disclosure of dark money in city elections.

They don’t like the dark money that increasing is buying Arizona’s elections – the secret interests that state leaders have bent over backwards to protect.

Are you listening, Gov. Doug Ducey?

Did you hear them, Arizona Legislature?

Meanwhile, Phoenix is working on a similar proposal.

And a bipartisan group called Outlaw Dirty Money is gathering signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot.

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Republicans push to nullify Arizona clean-energy ballot measure, benefit APS

Lawmakers Wednesday approved a bill to nullify a clean-energy ballot measure that's barely gotten off the ground in Arizona by making the penalty for utilities violating such a rule as little as $100.

Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli of Lake Havasu City introduced the "striker" amendment supported by fellow Republicans. Such amendments are a tactic used to introduce a new issue late in the session, often skipping part of the public-hearing process. It passed a committee vote 4-3 on party lines.

Critics contend the amended House Bill 2005 undermines not only the current Renewable Energy Standard, where state utility regulators at the Corporation Commission require utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, but also a ballot initiative recently filed in Arizona aiming for 50 percent renewables.

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