Of the $4.1 million spent to help four candidates vying for two open seats on the board that regulates Arizona’s utilities – more than in any previous Corporation Commission race – the source of more than $3 million of that is shrouded in secrecy.
The so-called “dark money” has gone entirely to help Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little.
The most recent campaign finance reports show the race has been dominated by $3.2 million coming from outside the campaigns themselves, and only a sliver of that – about $29,000 – comes from a traditional “independent expenditure” group that discloses its donors.
Of the $3.2 million in anonymous money pumped into the campaign, $925,000 has been spent to advocate for Forese and Little, while the remaining $2.3 million was spent criticizing their opponents.
The secretly-sourced election cash comes from a small group of generically named 501(c)4 operations, sanctioned by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision and free to spend without disclosing their donors. The groups are Arizona 2014, Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association, Arizona Free Enterprise Club and Save Our Future Now.
The groups have repeatedly declined to say where the money is coming from, though many political insiders have suspected that Arizona’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, who routinely has business before the commission, is behind much of the spending. APS has declined to say whether it is involved with the spending.
Last month, Forese and Little admitted to breaking campaign finance laws by failing to properly report expenditures for paid nominating signatures and campaign signs, as well as for violating cash-on-hand rules. Both are violations of the state’s public campaign financing system, which the two opted into. Each candidate was fined $1,000 by the Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission.