Do we have a right to know who is influencing an election? Voters in 2018 may get a chance to change the rules — but not necessarily on the local level.
An effort spearheaded by former Attorney General Terry Goddard to ban anonymous donations from political campaigns on Thursday turned in petitions to the Secretary of State’s office.
The initiative would guarantee voters are entitled to know who is trying to sway their votes on who to elect for everything from statewide offices to school board members.
The “Outlaw Dirty Money” measure Goddard hopes to put to voters — if it has enough valid signatures — also would impose the same requirements on those pushing future ballot measures.
However, the issue is not so simple.
It could let voters know who’s behind the $9 million, for example, that was spent to influence the 2014 gubernatorial race in which Republican Doug Ducey and Democrat Fed DuVal faced off.
It happened too in the Arizona Corporation Commission election in which two Republicans were elected with more than $3 million spent by outside groups.
Let’s be clear though: the ballot measure would not be retroactive. However, should these things happen in the next election we would know if it was a billionaire, a utility company, a special interest group or whomever working to sway the votes.
And while it also may prevent “chain” donations — in which individual or group A gives money to organization B, which then gives money to organization C that spends money on the race — it may not help closer to home.
In Prescott, mysterious mailers played a part in the most recent city election. Two — funded by outside interests — targeted one mayoral candidate, and at least one other had another candidate in its sights.
The measure is designed to expose anyone who puts at least $10,000 into any campaign, whether for public office or a ballot measure, but in the Prescott election the largest donations were smaller than that. Thus, if the measure is approved by voters with a floor of $10,000, it may have an effect on only larger or statewide races.
Critics say that requiring people to put their names behind their political acts creates a registry of every person who donated. They call that dangerous.
Still, without a disclosure, our politicians could be puppets of the Koch brothers or George Soros — or anyone else.
How do you feel about this? Would this ballot measure put civility back into politics or would it be a death knell for democracy? Let us know at www.dCourier.com/contact.