Recent polls show a strong level of support among Arizona voters across the political spectrum to end “dark money” campaigns.
Proposition 211, or the “Voters’ Right to Know Act,” requires organizations that fund political advertisements to disclose any contributor who spends $5,000 or more to an organization that spends $50,000 on a statewide or legislative advertising campaign. It also applies to local elections on a smaller scale at $2,500 in individual donations for campaigns that spend $25,000 or more.
David Binder Research released results from a September survey that indicates the ballot measure is supported by 86% of voters. Of those surveyed, 78% of Republicans, 86% of independents and 97% of Democrats support Proposition 211.
“Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative — I find people want to know who it is that is trying to persuade them to move one way or the other with their vote,” said Terry Goddard, co-chair of the Stop Dark Money campaign.
Goddard, a former Arizona attorney general and mayor of Phoenix, has worked for years trying to end “dark money” campaigns. He said he estimates about 1.5 million Arizona voters have signed petitions to stop “dark money” campaigns since 2016.
Chuck Coughlin, who is the HighGround Public Affairs Consultants president and CEO, said the ballot measure has been widely supported in HighGround’s polling. The most recent survey indicated 68% of Republicans were for the measure.
“Every survey we’ve done on dark money and disclosure for years has been overwhelmingly popular. Voters want to know where campaign contributions are coming from,” Coughlin said.
Stop Dark Money’s leadership also contains political representation across the board. Stop Dark Money submitted a column to the Arizona Capitol Times written by Goddard, a Democrat; Bob Burns, a Republican who served on the Arizona Corporation Commission and in the Arizona Senate; and David Tedesco, an independent who is the CEO of Outlier, an Arizona-based company and one of the largest private companies in the country.
But the ballot measure does have its critics. Conservative lobbying groups, including the Center for Arizona Policy and Arizona Free Enterprise Club, have expressed opposition to the measure, saying it would be an attack on free speech and would disproportionately affect conservatives.
“The Voters’ Right to Know Act is another attempt to silence free speech — and to target, harass, and dox private citizens,” the club wrote in a blog post about the measure.
Goddard said people like Scot Mussi, president of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, are mischaracterizing the measure. He also noted people can request a waiver from disclosure if they show their life may be in peril.
The club also argues “corporate media, big tech, and other liberal institutions” are exempt from the measure, but Goddard said he didn’t understand where they were pulling that from the statute since any organization on a social media platform that pays more than the required threshold in political advertising would be required to disclose its donors.
“They seem to think that anybody who subscribes to a newspaper or to an online journal ought to be disclosed as a contributor,” Goddard said. “I don’t even know where to start in arguing that’s ridiculous.”
Coughlin said efforts to oppose the ballot measure have been made by groups that have used dark money campaigns and want to protect their efforts, but the electorate isn’t buying the privacy issue claim that that these groups are making.
“Folks in the political industry, if you will, that live off of this stuff have gotten comfortable with the idea that they should be able to do this and they’re going to defend it. But – you know – they’re going to go down in flames,” Coughlin said.