By Terry Goddard
It comes as no surprise that the Dark Empire has struck back against Prop 211 and Transparency in who pays for Arizona political ads with two lawsuits. The first was filed in state court in December and the second last Friday in Federal Court. The state plaintiffs are the Free Enterprise Club, Scott Mussi, and the Center for Arizona Policy, Kathi Herrod (AKA the Dark Money masters of Arizona). The Federal plaintiffs are Americans for Prosperity and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AKA the Godfathers of Dark Money).
As many have commented, these plaintiffs are obviously not happy about the Arizona voters’ decision on Prop 211 and are trying to do in court what they failed to do at the polls. Others might be dissuaded by a 72% favorable vote representing every shade of the political spectrum, but these folks have too much at stake to go away quietly. Laurie Robert described the situation beautifully in her Republic column. Two money groups now fighting Arizona’s new disclosure law. Shocker. (azcentral.com)
Their arguments have a familiar ring. They say that disclosure will interfere with their donors’ free speech and free association because they cannot participate in political discussion for fear that having their names associated with a political campaign will result in “doxing” and other horrific attacks. They want the courts to see disclosure as tantamount to a gag, when it is no such thing.
Plaintiffs conveniently ignore the long line of court opinions holding that a political donor’s identity is not protected from disclosure by the First Amendment, that our Constitution does not give a political contributor the right to hide, that citizens should have the right to know who is trying to influence their votes. They choose to ignore that most of their fellow citizens have been disclosing their identity without adverse consequences for years when making political contributions. The tiny percent of political contributors they represent would like a special privilege. It’s that simple.
The Voters Right to Know Act, which has been the law in Arizona since December 5, 2022, provides for legal representation to defend the statute. The defendant in both cases, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, immediately hired the Osborn Maledon firm to defend the statute. Our support group, Voters Right to Know, entering the defense as an intervenor, has retained the Campaign Legal Center, a national nonpartisan group of elections law experts who helped draft the initiative in the first place. In addition, the Arizona Secretary of State and the Arizona Attorney General are appearing in defense of the statute. All in all, a strong and heartwarming show of support in court.
This will be a difficult and time consuming process, I won’t say otherwise. But we are blessed with great representation, overwhelming popular support and a long string of legal decisions supporting disclosure of political contributions. The most recent decision is from the Ninth Circuit just weeks ago.