The Center for Arizona Policy, the powerful evangelical Christian organization that was the driving force behind this year’s religious discrimination bill, SB1062, is activating its own corporate “dark money” group to support and oppose candidates for public office.
The 501(c)(4) non-profit, Center for Arizona Policy Action, is headed up by CAP President Cathi Herrod, and has spent more than $7,500 supporting legislative candidates. So far, the group has sent out mailers on behalf of three Republican candidates who are facing primary election challenges.
Aaron Baer, a spokesman for both Center for Arizona Policy and Center for Arizona Policy Action, said that the group is putting forward “a modest effort to help candidates who have stood with us or will stand with us on our issues.”
Center for Arizona Policy Action has so far backed Rep. John Kavanagh in his bid to move to the Senate in Scottsdale’s LD23 and Rep. Steve Smith in his bid to move up to the Senate in LD11, which covers parts of Pinal and Pima counties. Both are being challenged by moderate Republicans who are largely backed by business interests.
The group is also backing Shawnna Bolick in LD28, which covers parts of Phoenix and Paradise Valley and is currently represented by on Democrat and one Republican in the House. Bolick ran and lost in the 2010 GOP House primary.
Baer said Center for Arizona Policy Action would likely spend more money before the Aug. 26 primary, but declined to say to what extent it would do so. He said Herrod will make decisions on spending.
Baer would not say who is funding the effort.
It’s not the first time CAP has engaged in electioneering. In 1998, it registered the Citizens for Arizona Policy Political Action Committee with state elections officials. In 2002 and 2004, the committee spent tens of thousands of dollars supporting and opposing candidates for the Legislature.
Under state law, that committee was required to disclose its donors. But the US Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision changed the rules so that corporate entities, like Center for Arizona Policy Action, can spend unlimited funds advocating for candidates without ever saying where the money is coming from.
Baer said that, while the Center for Arizona Policy does not officially endorse candidates because of the group’s 501(c)(3) non-profit status, the spending by its 501(c)(4) arm “equates to CAP backing these candidates.”
“We don’t do an official endorsement, but this is CAP saying these candidates would be good for the state,” he said.