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Secretary of State Proposes Campaign Finance Overhaul

The Secretary of State’s Office is proposing an overhaul of the state’s campaign finance laws. Some election stakeholders are concerned the process could wind up relaxing certain disclosure rules.

Eric Spencer is Arizona’s Director of Election Services for the Secretary of State’s Office. At a presentation on Friday, Spencer said the state’s campaign finance laws are outdated and unnecessarily confusing. His office has drafted a proposed legislation that streamlines those statutes.

"We are keeping almost every existing policy, but we have rewritten it in a simpler manner," Spencer said. "We have reorganized it to the place where you would expect to find it. And we have created the statutes like the way you would read a book."

He compared the process to thinning a forest to keep it healthy.

Once the legislature begins debating the bill, the language could change further, and could veer into one of the most hotly debated topics in campaign finance: dark money.

Spencer said his office could be open to changes that would allow certain tax exempt non-profits known as 501(c)4s a “safe harbor” from disclosing their donors.

Tom Collins of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission opposes that idea and said it would create a problematic loophole.

“Things like big exemptions for 501(c)4s being on the table is what voters are going to want to look at as this evolves in the legislative process,” Collins said. “Because that would be a sea change and a dramatic step backwards for disclosure in Arizona.”

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Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.