Opinion: There is More to Dark Money than a Current Tempe Councilmember is Telling You

Opinion: There is More to Dark Money than a Current Tempe Councilmember is Telling You

Outrageous.  She claims to be fully supportive of Proposition 403, a measure that would amend Tempe’s City Charter to seriously regulate “dark money” expenditures in City of Tempe elections. Why then is a dark money committee, Revitalize Arizona/Residents for Accountability, paying for full-page ads in a small, local neighborhood publication (Wrangler News) supporting incumbent candidate Lauren Kuby in the current Tempe City Council Race?  These organizations are represented by The Torres Firm, a Tempe-based consultancy doing “messaging” including press releases, brochures, etc.; even financial reports to the Secretary of State based on filings online.  Oh, ads in Wrangler News, too, apparently.

A quick Google search will reveal that Revitalize Arizona is “A union-backed independent expenditure committee supporting Democrats in Arizona’s state elections.”  One statutory regulation is that such independent expenditure committees can have no connection with, contact with or coordination with the campaigns of individual candidates. Why would they bother spending on a city council election?  Because Kuby has been carrying their partisan water onto Tempe City Council the past few years and wants another term to do the same.

This fully exposes Kuby’s partisan background and also paints her hand-picked “ticket mate,” Genevieve Vega, with the same brush.  They are partisan Democrats, very active for years in Legislative District 26, and using the platform of Tempe City Council to advance Democratic Party state and national goals.   Sure, everyone involved in local politics must be registered as a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent.  But when candidates are deeply involved with and being supported by partisan precinct legislative political activists, or “union-backed independent expenditures” committees, that’s a different level of partisanship.  And not in the spirit of Tempe’s “non-partisan” charter.  

Local candidates in city council elections are limited to how much money they can collect from donors.  They’re even limited as to how much Political Action Committee (mostly unions) money they can raise and spend in a local election.  But Independent Expenditure Committees registered with the Secretary of State’s office?  They can collect and spend from sources you and I cannot discern as much as they wish.  That’s the very definition of dark money influencing election outcomes. I certainly don’t want it in my City’s election.

By the way, you can visit the azcleanelections.gov website to get a glimpse into how Revitalize Arizona supported (or opposed) other Democratic candidates.  Or on publicintegrity.org  you can see that in 2012 they spent $240,000 opposing then-candidate for Governor, Doug Ducey.  Yep, it’s what they do.  And they don’t have to reveal their donors to Tempe voters or even file their financial reports with the City.  That’s how Independent Expenditure campaigns work.  In the dark.  With lots of money.  To persuade you to support their partisan agenda.  In a non-partisan election. 

I guess Kuby will respond that she “knows nothing about these people and didn’t authorize the expenditures for these ads.”  There.  I’ll just say it for her. 



Editor’s note: the author is a supporter of city council candidate Jennifer Adams and Adams for Tempe 

Editor’s Notes

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