Guest Editorial: We Have A Right To Know

By Scottsdale Pinetop

Tempe Councilwoman Lauren Kuby has made it her mission to make Tempe’s elections clean. Since taking office in 2015, she, along with a small group of reformers, led a campaign to stop dark money in Tempe’s elections. And last year, Tempe voters passed a ballot measure that would require any group spending over $1,000 towards a local election to be disclosed on campaign finance reports. This transparency measure was supported by 91 percent of the voters – a percentage any elected official would kill to have.

As Yoda might say, a progressive step forward the vote was. But it’s not over yet. Republican Senator Vince Leach now wants Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate Tempe’s ordinance. In a complaint to the Attorney General’s office, Leach states that Tempe’s ordinance violates state law because political spending is an issue of free speech and the ordinance violates people’s constitutional rights. What a shame.

During the same time Tempe voters were casting their votes, the legislature passed HB 2153. The law makes it illegal for a municipality to require a nonprofit in good standing with the IRS from being forced to disclose the identity of its donors. Governor Ducey, a major beneficiary of dark money in his 2014 re-election, signed the bill last April.

In a written statement, the City will agree to cooperate with the investigation. But Tempe is not giving up without a fight. “We are dedicated to honoring the will of 91 percent of Tempe voters to require disclosure of dark money contributions used to influence local elections,” said Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell.

Tempe’s ordinance is a model for other cities across the state.

It’s hard to believe that candidates are not influenced by the deep-pockets of nonprofit groups that are willing to spend large sums of money to ensure their own political ambitions. With the influence of dark money contributions, candidates can essentially “buy” their way into politics if supported by powerful and wealthy anonymous donors.

Ideally, politicians are meant to reflect the people that they seek to represent not the organizations that sign their donation checks. Tempe voters, as well as in any city, have a right to know who is paying for campaign support. We applaud Tempe’s as well as former Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard and many others for their leadership and dedication to helping ensure accountability and change. Don’t give up Tempe. Don’t give up.