Arizona Supreme Court battle heats up to keep anti-dark money initiative on ballot

Political and business leaders have collected signatures to put an initiative on this November’s ballot that would force dark money groups to reveal themselves.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 5:45 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Television political ads repeatedly appear, bashing one candidate and criticizing another. “They don’t really tell us anything,” said voter Kim Gaffney-Loza. “They really don’t tell us anything, it’s just propaganda, in my opinion.”

“When you see paid for by the committee blah, blah, blah, keep Arizona green, or make America great, you wonder who’s really behind that,” said voter Whitney Manas.

Arizona voters have become increasingly frustrated by all the political ads that don’t identify whose behind them or their motives. But that may be about to change.

A bipartisan coalition of political and business leaders wants to create more transparency in Arizona elections. They’ve collected more than 350,000 signatures to put an initiative on this November’s ballot that would force dark money groups to reveal themselves.

Phoenix business leader David Tedesco said voters deserve to know who is paying for all these ads. “We’re not seeking to limit the amount people spend, not seeking to limit spending, we’re not seeking to limit ads,” said Tedesco. “All we’re saying is, if you are going to spend significant money on Arizona elections, you’re going to raise your hand and say ‘hey, its me.’”

A lawsuit, however, was recently filed against the Secretary of State’s office by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and several other political action groups. The lawsuit claims the signatures gathered for the Voters Right to Know Act should be thrown out, based on the claim that petitioners didn’t follow proper procedures registering with the state.

A Superior Court judge rejected the lawsuit, but now, the case has been appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court. Gov. Doug Ducey and other Republican state leaders recently filed a brief with the court, supporting the argument that Arizona voters should not be allowed to vote on the dark money initiative this November.

Terry Goddard is leading the anti-dark money effort. He said they followed all state laws and guidelines to get the initiative on the November ballot.

“What I really find offensive and despicable is when elected officials say, we gave you a set of rules, you followed the rules, but now we’re going to court saying it should have been a different set of rules,” said Goddard. “You can’t change the game like that.”

Kory Langhofer is one of the attorneys representing the groups that filed the lawsuit. He released this statement: “The citizens established rules to govern ballot measure campaigns, and we believe everyone should follow the rules as written.”

The Arizona Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling in the next week or two.