Phoenix overwhelmingly decides to shine light on dark money

Eight months after Tempe voters chose to shine a light on dark money in political spending, Phoenix voters approved a similar measure, setting up a potential legal showdown with the state.

About 87 percent of Phoenix voters said yes to Proposition 419, which is a copycat of a similar move made by Tempe voters. The measure requires anyone who spends money to influence the outcome of a Phoenix municipal election to disclose the source of its money, a move aimed at revealing the sources of anonymous “dark money” in campaigns.

However, the state Legislature pre-empted Tempe’s move by passing a law prohibiting any local, county or state government from forcing non-profit organizations, which are often used as vehicles for spending dark money, to disclose the identities of their donors.

If Tempe chooses to enforce their measure it will likely face an investigation by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. And Phoenix could see a similar fate.

The measure’s passage will likely set up a battle in the coming months between Phoenix and the state, which may also include Tempe.

Disclosure ordinances like the one just passed by Phoenix voters have become a hot-button issue with some conservatives saying they violate the First Amendment, while liberals believe they are a way to reign in anonymous spending.

“Tonight, voters in Arizona’s largest community stood up for transparency and accountability in their local elections,” Joel Edman, executive director for Arizona Advocacy said to the Arizona Mirror on Tuesday night. “Elected officials would be wise to heed this call and support further efforts to shine a light on dark money.”

The conservative Goldwater Institute, which is engaged in lawsuits against similar measures in Colorado and New Mexico, could also bring a legal challenge over Proposition 419.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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