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Molly McKasson: Doug Ducey and the problem of dark money

Molly McKasson: Doug Ducey and the problem of dark money

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Do you know how much the following organizations are affecting your daily life? American Encore, Arizona Free Enterprise Club Fund, Americans for Responsible Leadership, Legacy Foundation Action Fund, Veterans for a Strong America, Prosper Inc., Americans for Prosperity, American Federation for Children, etc.

Most of us know very little about these so-called “social welfare” 501(c)(4) nonprofits. Yet they’ve been influencing Arizona politics since 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United.

Unlike political PACs, they can give millions in anonymous political donations. While in Arizona they give to right-leaning candidates and issues, there are other left-leaning nonprofits around the country. Donations from these 501(c)(4)s are dubbed “dirty money” or “dark money.”

Many of these nonprofits are connected to the libertarian, anti-government network of the billionaire Koch brothers — Charles and David Koch — whose agenda is to do away with institutions we think of as primary to our democracy. They’re also connected to our own governor, Doug Ducey. Since his political career began in 2010, Ducey could never have sustained his relentless efforts to weaken public education, without the help of an ever-increasing flow of dirty money.

To Ducey and his Koch allies, the financial woes of Arizona’s public education system created a golden opportunity to gut public schools. Money talks — and Ducey has had a long dialogue with dirty money:

2010: Ducey runs for State Treasurer and receives millions of dark dollars from Koch-affiliated organizations.

2012: Ducey is put in charge of defeating a citizens’ initiative called Prop. 204, which calls for the continuation of a one-cent per dollar sales tax for public education. A dark money group pays for more than half the dire warnings against 204, and it goes down.

2014: Ducey runs for governor and dirty money groups, many based out-of-state and funded by the Kochs, spend $15 million to elect anti-government, anti-public school candidates like Ducey.

January 2016: Ducey appoints Clint Bolick — former president of the Koch brothers’ Alliance for School Choice, the largest U.S. pro-voucher organization — to the Arizona Supreme Court.

2016: Ducey signs into law SB 1516, weakening campaign finance laws and encouraging influence pedaling. (Vote “no” on Prop. 306.) With Ducey’s blessing, the American Federation for Children and other dark money groups pump big bucks into successful legislative races for candidates supporting a greatly expanded school voucher program.

2017: With Ducey’s blessing, the Legislature adopts a universal voucher bill, prompting educators to launch the Save Our Schools (SOS) initiative, so this November voters can decide whether limited public school dollars should fund religious and private schools. (Vote “no” on Prop. 305).

Fall of 2017: The popular Outlaw Dirty Money and Invest in Ed initiatives are launched and Arizonans enthusiastically sign petitions to stop corruption and fund education.

Spring of 2018: Ducey signs into law HB 2153, prohibiting Tempe and all jurisdictions from passing local dirty money regulations.

June 2018: Ducey and dirty money lawyers engage in guerrilla warfare and by August both initiatives are disqualified on minor technicalities by Ducey-appointed judges.

According to the late Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United was not intended to be an endorsement of anonymous donations: “Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.”

In Nov. 6, please give us a governor with such civic courage.

Molly McKasson is a former representative for Ward 6 on the Tucson City Council.

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