'Dark Money,' Open Primaries Efforts Suspended Over Funding Problems

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, March 11, 2016 - 9:17am
Updated: Friday, March 11, 2016 - 12:14pm

Organizers of twin initiatives to tighten the reins on dark money campaign spending and open up political primaries suspended both efforts Thursday after a key source of funding dried up.

One measure would create open primary elections where all candidates run against each other in the primary and the top two vote-earners face off in the general election, regardless of party. The other would require groups seeking to influence elections to disclose the true source of their funding.

The effort to put both issues on the November ballot started with a million dollars from Texas billionaire John Arnold. But on Thursday initiative organizers said Arnold was interested in only the open primary measure and never intended to fund the dark money proposal.

So they gave him back what they had not yet spent. Former Attorney General Terry Goddard said he hopes to continue the effort, even without the funds.

"There was this sense, well, OK, this very wealthy man in Texas wants to help us. But I guess that is a false sense of security and we've had a rude awakening on that point," Goddard said. "But absolutely, I know that the popular sense about dark money in particular and about how much politics are broken in Arizona is overwhelming."

But Goddard conceded he probably cannot get the more than 225,000 signatures on each initiative by the July 7 deadline using only volunteers. And he said the efforts will shut down if they can't get $1.2 million for each of the measures within the next 10 days.

Campaign treasurer Chuck Coughlin said that may be difficult for political reasons.

"When we have approached people, it is clear to us in those conversations that the governor's office does not want disclosure on the ballot," he said.

A Ducey spokesperson denied that the governor or anyone else in his office have urged people not to contribute.

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