PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court late Wednesday rejected a last-ditch effort by supporters of a ban on “dark money” in political races to put the issue to voters in November.
In a brief order, the justices rejected arguments by attorney Kimberly Demarchi that Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders improperly and illegally refused to count the signatures on several petition sheets. That ruling clearly left the initiative with fewer than the 225,963 valid signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.
The initiative would have asked voters overturn existing laws that allow groups established under the Internal Revenue Code as “social welfare organizations” to spend money to influence state and local races without disclosing the source of their donors. Instead, any individual that put in at least $2,500 would have to be named.
That leaves in place not only the state law shielding donors who give to organizations seeking to affect state and legislative elections, but it also leaves intact another law, approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year, prohibiting local governments from imposing their own disclosure requirements. That most immediately overruled an ordinance approved by Tempe voters.
Demarchi was challenging the law that requires automatic disqualification of petitions when circulators do not show up.
If nothing else, she argued the law does not comply with court rules that the people issuing the subpoenas show they have been properly served. And Demarchi said it was wrong to let challengers to the initiative wait until 11 days before the trial to even mention that they planned to subpoena circulators.
“The voters of Arizona are being deprived of even the opportunity to consider the proposed amendment referred for their consideration by hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens,” Demarchi told the justices. “This result should not be permitted to stand.”
The justices saw it otherwise, upholding the law without comment.