Anonymity is important for very few reasons.
On social media being anonymous empowers people to say things they would otherwise keep to themselves. In politics, the ability to maintain anonymity when contributing to a campaign hides the agenda of the donor.
Arizona laws that govern political contributions allow nonprofit organizations to donate to a candidate or campaign, without reporting the source of the funds for the donation. Often referred to as “dark money,” this provision of the state law has allowed millions of dollars in campaign contributions to flow into Arizona from anonymous donors, all of whom have an agenda they hope to accomplish in this state.
Last week the state Court of Appeals reinstated a 2017 law that opens the door to “dark money” contributions to political races. The court ruled that any group the Internal Revenue Service has classified as non-profit does not have to disclose its donors, even if it uses the money to finance independent expenditures to elect or defeat candidates.
The ruling also allows political parties to spend unlimited dollars on behalf of their candidates without disclosure.
While we respect the court, we completely disagree with the law.
Efforts to change this law have consistently failed. Two attempts to draft an amendment to the state constitution have fallen short of the signatures needed to get on a statewide ballot. One reason for that failure, we believe, is the complexity of this issue.
We think most voters would prefer more information about candidates and causes before they cast their ballot. Voters would choose to know if a large corporation regulated by a state agency is contributing huge sums to candidate campaigns in the hope their favored candidates are elected. Voters would choose to know if an ultra-conservative or radically liberal political action committee is donating to a candidate or a ballot initiative.
Right now in Arizona, those contributions can be kept secret. We would argue that many voters don’t know that fact.
Dark money foes argue that anonymous funding opens the door to corruption and deprives voters of the ability to make informed choices about who is funding campaigns. Opponents of increased disclosure, who often take issue with the term “dark money,” say such measures infringe on free speech rights and subject those who bankroll campaigns to retaliation.
We stand for transparency and believe it’s vitally important to know how candidates and causes are being funded.
We’re seeing millions of dollars being poured into politics in Arizona by organizations and individuals from inside and outside the state. All of those donations are being made in the hope that the agenda of the contributor can be realized.
We think it’s past time that voters know where that money is coming from, and what the agenda is of the contributor.
Keeping Arizona elections transparent is the only way to keep them honest.