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Former Arizona Attorneys General Back Phoenix Disclosure Push

Two former Arizona attorneys general are backing a plan by some Phoenix leaders to buck a new state law scheduled to kick in this summer. It would prevent cities from requiring certain groups to reveal campaign contributions in local elections.

Their party affiliations differ, but Republican Tom Horne and Democrat Terry Goddard both support public disclosure of major campaign contributions.

“The way people evaluate a message depends in part on who the messenger is,” said Horne.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has said over and over that there is no right to hide your disclosure,” Goddard said.

The former attorneys general spoke before a Phoenix subcommittee Tuesday. That’s where Councilwoman Kate Gallego made a motion for staff to draft an ordinance similar to one overwhelmingly approved by voters in Tempe last month.

Gallego wants to see local election contributions of $1,000 and up to be registered with the city. Councilwoman Debra Stark supported Gallego’s motion while the subcommittee’s third member, Councilman Jim Waring, was not present to vote.

The full council is expected to vote on Gallego’s motion in May. If the council approves, it will be referred to the November ballot where residents will have the final say.

Not long after Tempe voters approved an amendment to the city charter to require disclosure of local political spending of more than $1,000, state lawmakers passed and Governor Doug Ducey signed HB2153. It bars local ordinances from requiring political non-profits to disclose the people behind the money. Supporters of HB2153 say donors have a right to privacy while opponents say donors have a right to speak but not to keep contributions confidential.

Here is the full text of Gallego’s motion provided by her office:

Item #8 – City of Phoenix Election Funding Disclosure
Motion by Councilwoman Kate Gallego
1. Motion to direct staff to draft an ordinance and associated charter changes for SHEN Subcommittee review that will enact the following:

a. Disclosure of Major Contributions by IRS Code 501 (a) entities via a registered Independent Expenditure committee with the following definition and requirement:

• A Major Contribution that requires disclosure shall be defined as contributions individually or in aggregate of $1,000 or greater.

• Any person, association of persons or entity, other than a registered candidate committee, or political action committee that makes expenditures to influence the result of a local City of Phoenix election totaling more than $1,000 within an election cycle shall register with the City Clerk and disclose the original source or sources of all major contributions received during that period attributed to that expenditure, and any intermediaries through which such contributions passed.

i. Exceptions pertaining to 501 (a) entities

• Disclosure is not required of the identity of persons contributing less than $1,000 during an election cycle or of the contributors of membership dues or fees consistent with a published due or fee schedule published within the last 2 years.

• Disclosure is also not required of the names of donors who have specifically restricted their donation to non election-related uses.

b. Disclosure of the name, address and employer of each original source of a major contribution attributed to an independent expenditure as well as the amount(s) and date(s) of each major contribution in the following manner:

• Disclosure of Major Contributions shall be reported to the City Clerk within 48 hours of an expenditure made by the Independent Expenditure. A subsequent expenditure by the IE of at least $1,000 shall obligate a reporting to the City Clerk of new Major Contributions within 48 hours of the new expenditure threshold being triggered.

c. Disclosure of Major Contributions will be required in elections for both candidates and propositions, as well as for any City of Phoenix ballot question.

d. An enforcement requirement that allows for the reporting of violations, the ability for accused violators to comply with the ordinance in a timely fashion, and for civil penalties to be levied upon findings of fact that the ordinance was violated. Fines shall be deposited into the general fund.

This ordinance shall not create a patchwork of municipal election campaign finance disclosure regulations and shall adhere as closely as possible to the standards and practices outlined in Ordinance No. O2017.51 of the City of Tempe.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.