Linda Valdez: Arizona law gives too many people an invisibility cloak to wear while they influence our elections.
Imagine you like Candidate Z because she says she supports good schools.
Why should you care if she gets tons of “dark money?”
If secret sugar daddies help her win, that’s good for you.
Why you need to know who donated
But wait. After she became Office Holder Z, the candidate you supported began to cut school funding.
It turned out she was a better friend to private schools.
So who were those sugar daddies, anyway?
All a sudden, it matters.
Maybe they don’t care about your state.
Maybe they just want to use Arizona as a Petri dish to grow national acceptance for things like privatizing K-12 education.
Knowing that before an election might make a difference.
Shouldn't all donors play by the same rules?
But Arizonans don’t know the source of a lot of money that influences our elections.
That’s because not everybody plays by the same rules.
Consider the 2014 election that made Republican Doug Ducey the governor and put Republicans in every other statewide office.
An analysis by The Republic after the election found there was $27.3 million in outside spending – spending candidates do not directly control. At least 46 percent of that came from groups that do not have to disclose the names of their donors.
That’s a lot of secret admirers.
Groups established under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code as “social welfare” non-profits don’t have to disclose their donors.
Arizona law gives them an invisibility cloak to wear while they influence our elections.
So you don’t know who they are.
But I’m guessing Office Holders X, Y and Z have a pretty good idea who their friends are.
Ballot initiative would force disclosure
Enter Terry Goddard, who wants you to help him pull the plug and drain the swamp.
His Stop Political Dirty Money Amendment establishes a right in the Arizona Constitution for you to know who is putting money into political campaigns.
Those who spend more than $10,000 to influence an election would have to disclose where the money came from, and to reveal the “original source” of contributions over $2,500.
The amendment wouldn’t stop anybody from contributing. It just stops them from hiding.
It gives voters more information, and puts an informed electorate back in control of elections.
Goddard, former Arizona attorney general and former mayor of Phoenix, says they need about 225,000 valid signatures by July 5 to qualify for the November ballot. He’s aiming for 300,000 to provide a cushion.
Aside from a few paid organizers, the effort will rely on volunteer signature gatherers.
Here's how you can help
He says they have about 500 volunteers collecting signatures.
“We need four times that many,” he says. (You can sign up to help at outlawdirtymoney.com.)
It doesn’t have to be a big commitment.
“People underestimate how powerful they can be,” Goddard told me.
If everybody who wants to make the political system “more credible” gets 10 signatures on a petition, “it will really have an impact,” he says.
Hmm. Do you know 10 people who are fed up with the dysfunction in our political system?
This isn't just a 'Democratic' issue
Goddard says this is a nonpartisan issue. But he’s a Democrat, and this is seen as a Democratic cause.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who benefited from dark money in 2014, is on record opposing the initiative.
If you are a Republican and support the GOP candidates who are winning under the current system, you might not care who gives them money.
But Democrats can have sugar daddies, too.
Don’t you want everybody to know who they are?