The Arizona Court of Appeals’ decision to lift a ban that opens the door for “dark money” contributions to political races will increase the risk of corruption in the state’s politics, according to watchdog groups.
The ruling reinstated a 2017 law in which the Republican-led legislature allowed any group that the IRS classified as a nonprofit not to disclose its donors, regardless of whether the voter-created Citizens Clean Elections Commission approved. Organizations aren’t disqualified under the law even if they use funding to elect or oust candidates.
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The ruling essentially defangs the commission, which voters set up up to determine whether an organization was really a charity or a political action committee (PAC) and thus required to disclose its donors.
Political parties will now be able to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of their candidates without disclosure, and individuals and special interests can pay the legal fees of candidates without the expenditures counting against mandated caps on financial aid.
Nonetheless, included in Tuesday’s decision was what Tuscon.com called a “key victory” for challenger Arizona Advocacy Network.
The appellate court judges said GOP lawmakers did not have a right to limit the Clean Elections Commission’s regulations to only independent expenditures made on behalf of candidates who are accepting public financing.
That qualifier preserves the right of the commission to require disclosure of all money spent on candidates, even if it can no longer force reporting of the original source.
While the Arizona Advocacy Network appreciates the court’s recognition of the role the commission plays in protecting democracy, the ruling “also gave the seal of approval to various legal loopholes created by the Arizona legislature for the sake of allowing unlimited amounts of corporate money to flow into our