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Tempe Proposes Anti-'Dark Money' Election Spending Law

Tempe will send a city charter amendment to voters that would strip anonymity from so-called "dark money" in city elections and Thursday City Council will vote on language that would allow the ordinance to be enforced.

The proposal would require groups making independent expenditures of more than $1,000 to reveal the funding source.

“We’re simply trying to give the voter the opportunity to make informed decisions and to know who is trying to influence their election,” said City Councilwoman Lauren Kuby, who helped craft the change and has worked on other election spending initiatives in Tempe.

The Arizona Republic reported independent expenditure groups spent $4,678 in 2014 and $3,862 in 2016 in Tempe.

“We don’t want to wait for somebody to pour money into our elections while hiding behind some kind of meaningless name,” Kuby said.

Tempe has passed several other election spending laws in recent years. The city caps individual donations at $500 and requires lobbyists to register with the cityand report their expenditures. 

“We think the public has a right to know the original sources of these funds,” Kuby said.

A Tempe proposal to match campaign contributions with city money, known as Clean Elections, failed to gain traction in 2015.

The new ordinance called "Keep Dark Money Out of Local Tempe Elections" will be on the  the ballot in March.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the measure Tempe City Council will vote on Thursday.

Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.