Opponents slam “dark money” bill

Opponents of a legislative move to reduce state oversight of “dark money” said changes approved last week by the Senate would put Arizona elections under a cloud.

Election advocacy groups, Democratic legislators and an attorney said at a news conference Monday SB 1516 has serious flaws, including the ability for one political organization to donate money to another without disclosing donors.

“Literally every elected office in the state of Arizona will go up for sale for the highest bidder if Senate Bill 1516 passes,” said Phoenix attorney Tom Ryan at a news conference Monday.

“This is not just about ballot measures. This is not just about state legislature. Literally every school board, every town council, every county board of supervisors in the state of Arizona will go up for sale,” Ryan said.

Dark money funds are donations from nonprofit groups that do not have to disclose their donors under federal law.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan supports a bill passed last week by the Senate that would require the state to force donor disclosure only if the non-profit corporation were found to be out of compliance with IRS rules at the time the political spending occurred, according to azcentral.com.

Neither Reagan nor the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, were available Monday for comment.

“The ability to differentiate between bad actors and perfectly legitimate companies exercising their basic right to speak is historic,” Reagan says in a statement on the Secretary of State website. “ It’s offensive to many that institutional groups like the Cattlemen’s Association or Arizona Chamber of Commerce would have to hand over the personal information of their members and supporters to a government agency.”

The Arizona League of Women Voters and Arizona Advocacy Network and Democratic lawmakers Rep. Ken Clark and Sen. Martin Quezada, both of Phoenix, spoke against the bill at a news conference.

The bill “opens the floodgates for anonymous unlimited amounts of money to flow through Arizona and buy your politicians your votes,” said Samantha Pstross, executive director of the advocacy network group. “It creates new loopholes and new accounting gimmicks to help cheating candidates game the system.”

The bill now goes before the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.