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Three-quarters of ‘outside’ election spending in AZ comes with scant disclosure


(Note: This story comes from the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting through a Creative Commons license. AZCIR is a nonprofit investigative newsroom.)

Of the $1.9 million spent this cycle by “outside groups” to affect Arizona elections, $565,000 – or about 30 percent – comes with no disclosure of the source of the money.

Such “dark money” groups report only expenditures intended to help elect or defeat particular candidates. They don’t report sources of income.

But another 45 percent of the “outside money,” which is spent by groups other than candidates themselves, cannot be traced to an original source.

Instead, corporations that would otherwise file expenditure reports earning the “dark money” label can fund – sometimes entirely – an “outside” political committee, which spends money on elections, then reports the income as a business contribution. A recent report by Brennan Center for Justice termed such spending as “gray money.”

SolarCity accounts for a large portion of corporate cash passed through political committees, to then be spent on elections. Save Our AZ Solar, an independent expenditure committee that spent $667,000 advocating for Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns through his Republican primary re-election bid, received funding only from the solar panel company.

Stand for Children IEC (independent expenditure committee) has spent about $70,000 advocating for particular outcomes in legislative races. The committee got about 60 percent of its income from Stand for Children, Inc., an Oregon-based nonprofit corporation, whose most recent tax filings show $3,000,000 in income, with almost no information about the source.

Stand for Children IEC also gets 20 percent of its money from Greater Phoenix Leadership, Inc., a 501(c)(6) nonprofit corporation whose most recent IRS filing lists $1.6 million in membership dues.

Other groups’ spending can be traced to donors. Responsible Leaders for AZ, which spent about $150,000 on Arizona elections this cycle got all of it’s money from the Realtors of AZ PAC, which reports to state election officials the names of thousands of small-dollar donors.

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