Note – Sonoran Alliance was asked to print this since the Republic refused to print it.
by Timothy La Sota
Last Thursday The Arizona Republic ran an editorial heralding the release of the names of people who gave money that was ultimately used to boost Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s reelection chances last November. (“PAC donors were deputies, friends of Arpaio,” 7/16/09). This was the second editorial the Republic devoted to promoting full disclosure in this matter.
The Republic is correct that our laws require the filing of campaign finance reports, which let the public know who is giving money to elected. It’s just too bad the Republic’s commitment to campaign openness is newfound—they have not applied the same standard with regard to those the Republic agrees with.
Several years ago a group called Mainstream Arizona formed, with the goal of ridding the world, or at least the Legislature, of conservative Republicans. They raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from community elites and spent it on their candidates, many of whom were also supported by the Republic.
But the group refused to register as a political committee and file campaign finance reports. Eventually they were forced to pursuant to a settlement agreement with the Attorney General’s office, but that was after the election.
Oddly enough, the Republic did not get into a lather over the lack of disclosure from Mainstream Arizona.
In 2008, opponents of the employer sanctions law pushed a ballot initiative that would have gutted that law. The misnamed ballot initiative, Stop Illegal Hiring, was funded largely by a group called Wake up Arizona. The backers of Stop Illegal Hiring refused to name Wake up Arizona’s donors, leaving the public in the dark over who was really funding it.
The Republic, a critic of the employer sanctions law, did not raise a stink about this.
Also in 2008, the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce engaged in an effort to boost the election chances of their favored Scottsdale City Council candidates and incumbent Mayor Mary Manross (full disclosure: I work for the current Mayor, who defeated Manross). They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars but refused to name their donors. This matter is the subject of a pending civil complaint.
The Republic largely supported the Chamber’s candidates, but what’s more troubling is the role the Republic played in this political campaign. The Republic is a member of the Scottsdale Area Chamber, and sits on the Chamber’s executive board of directors, which presumably approved this political campaign.
The Republic made hardly a peep about the lack of full disclosure here, including about the Republic’s own role in this campaign.
By law, all these groups should have disclosed their contributors, and the Republic should come clean about what role they played in the political efforts of the Scottsdale Area Chamber.
But one thing is clear. When the Republic writes a breathless editorial demanding that another person or group disclose something, here’s what they really mean: full disclosure is good, except when it involves disclosure about the Republic’s own campaign activities, or campaign activities on behalf of those causes the Republic supports.
Timothy La Sota is the chief of staff to the Mayor of Scottsdale and former Special Assistant County Attorney