Tuesday, October 28, 2014

DARK MONEY BONANZA: Approx $15M Dark Money Spent On Arizona Campaigns... So Far (#50ShadesOfDarkMoney)

Approximately $15,000,000 of dark money has been spent to influence Arizona voters in the past year.  As election day (mercifully) approaches, the number of TV/radio/online/postal/etc ads is reaching a crescendo; on many of those, it is impossible to identify which individuals, corporations or groups put up the money.

Arizona's Politics has attempted to shine as much light as possible on these dark ads, as they have become a bigger story than ever.  The state's largest utility, APS, has apparently contributed mightily to such groups in races for the Corporation Commission, Secretary of State, and Attorney General; that has become a major driver of the news.

Because of a wide range of disclosure laws for the great variety of types of independent expenditure spenders, it is not always clear whether an ad should be considered as a "dark money" ad.  Arizona's Politics is using a "#50ShadesOfDarkMoney" spectrum to rank the various groups. (Explanations are provided; Google the term for a list of articles.)

What the individual articles have not done is keep a running total of the dark money expenditures. So, with help from Paul Weich, we went through our articles, Arizona Secretary of State reports, Federal Election Commission reports, and checked in with the Center for Responsive Politics
(where the good people there do great work).  Here is the snapshot provided from looking through those various lenses.

To date, approximately $14,675,103 has been spent in Arizona in the past year by groups judged to not disclose donors for all or the majority of their funds.

The caveats are:
(1) Americans for Prosperity - a group believed to be partly funded by the now-infamous Koch brothers - began running ads against Democratic Reps. Ron Barber and Ann Kirkpatrick in early 2014. The amounts put into broadcasting those ads are not entirely clear.
(2) Dark money independent expenditures in all of the Arizona legislative primaries were not totaled.  The largest IEs were reviewed, and the amount spent in other races were approximated.
(3) Reasonable people can differ as to whether certain groups should be considered "dark money". Arizona's Politics did not include several groups that appear unlikely to receive/spend money from outside individuals/entities, even if they do not disclose their donors. Examples of this are the Arizona Cattle Feeders' Association and labor unions.  However, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Arizona Policy Action Committee are examples of groups that Arizona's Politics did consider to be "dark money." (A complete list of IE groups and their spots on the #50ShadesOfDarkMoney spectrum will be released on Wednesday.)

Although an astonishing $5M+ was spent during battles for party nominations (the August 26 primary election), most of the dark money has been spent between August 27 and the present.

For statewide offices, there has been $5,750,197 in dark money expenditures.  The Republican Attorneys General Association ("RAGA") is responsible for nearly $2M ($1,962,453, to be exact) of that, all spent attacking Democratic nominee Felecia Rotellini.  As discovered by Arizona's Politics last week, APS contributed at least $175,000 to that group. RAGA receives more than half of its monies from dark money sources.

Nationally-known dark money wizard Sean Noble (based here in Arizona) has made his presence felt in this year's elections.  His American Encore group alone has spent $1,445,000 in the Governor's race (supporting long-term client/ally Doug Ducey).  He also has ties with some of the other dark money entities.

State legislative races have also seen approximately $1.6M in dark money expenditures.  However, the overwhelming amounts were spent in the hotly-contested Republican primaries. (Approx $1.3M in the primaries vs. $335K so far in the general.)

An interesting aspect of the legislative races is that good chunks of that dark money comes from two education-focused national groups.  Stand for Children, Inc. and the American Federation for Children, Inc. have spent heavily in both primaries and general campaigns.  A third education-related group, Arizona Democrats for Educational Equity, apparently receives a majority of its funds from the dark Education Reform Now Advocacy group; ADEE has not spent much to date.

Arizona has been in the national eye for two toss-up Congressional races, and the dark outside money has flooded in.  Including a little bit spent in the GOP primary battle in CD1 - and NOT including the early ads purchased by Americans for Prosperity - a total of $3,565,315 in non-disclosed money has flooded the Phoenix (CD1) and Tucson (CD2 and CD1) markets.

CD1, with a battle between Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, has seen $2.0M, all supporting the GOP challenger.  American Action Network ($840,670), YG Network ($734,867) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($300,000) are the biggest spenders.

In southern Arizona's CD2, Rep. Ron Barber is facing a rematch with Martha McSally. $1.4M has been spent there, with the same three groups leading the charge (in a different order: the U.S. Chamber has spent $600,424, AAN $503,742 and YGNet $233,559).  A centrist group leaning Democratic - Center Forward - spent $147,864 attacking McSally.

The Arizona Star's Joe Ferguson has a very good article up this morning regarding dark money in Arizona, and Secretary of State candidate Terry Goddard's plans to address the mushrooming problem of mushroom money.

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com or call 602-799-7025. Thanks.

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