Arizona needs improvement in campaign laws
There has been an ongoing debate in this country over the issue of campaign financing and whether control of it is essential to fair elections.
That was especially true this year when record amounts of money were spent in the presidential campaign by so-called “superpacs” as a result of a Supreme Court ruling loosening restrictions on campaign spending.
Now the issue has surfaced in our state in regard to a group called Americans for Responsible Leadership that spent millions of dollars to defeat various propositions in California and Arizona. It also sought to support or defeat various candidates.
In our state, the organization campaigned against Proposition 204 to fund public schools and Proposition 121 to require open primaries, both of which were defeated.
The concern is not so much how much money it spent or how, but rather where the money came from in the first place. Arizona law does not require that the donors to the political group be disclosed, but California law does.
That is why we know at least a little bit about the source of the money. The California Fair Political Practices Commission sued to get a list of the donors. It eventually found out it came from a Virginia group and was simply passed through — or “laundered” if you accept the definition of the head of the California commission — by the Arizona group.
This revelation resulted in Arizona's secretary of state calling for tougher financial campaign reporting laws in Arizona to force fuller disclosure of who is funding these types of groups. We strongly support that proposal.
There is nothing wrong with the campaign spending itself. Individuals and groups should be allowed to spend what they want to advocate as they choose in elections. But voters also have a right to know in a timely manner who is providing the money. It is an extension of the idea of open government.
The Arizona Legislature needs to toughen our state's political disclosure laws in its session that begins in January.