By Corinne Murdock |
A proposition intended to provide transparency to certain, alleged dark money networks may result in more danger for certain nonprofits.
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) says it’s faced threats of violence and endured vandalism last year, and expressed concern that Prop 211, the Voters’ Right to Know Act, would exacerbate these issues.
AFEC President Scot Mussi told AZ Free News that some of the threats of intimidation were so severe that they filed police reports. Mussi said that the forced disclosure of the names, addresses, occupations, and identities of employers for any donors who gave over $5,000 to them would be subject to the same evils they face.
“Our supporters should be able to exercise their speech rights without fear of harassment or intimidation,” said Mussi.
Mussi predicted that Prop 211 would result in donors enduring retaliation and harassment. He pointed out that the proposition lacked substantive protections, except a provision protecting individuals from a “threat of physical harm.” However, Mussi was skeptical that the provision had any teeth for most organizations, save for the wealthy and powerful.
Any group or entity that spends over $50,000 on campaign media spending in a statewide race or $25,000 in any other race must adhere to those disclosure requirements. The top three donors for that cycle must also be disclosed, even if their funds weren’t used for campaign media spending.
Campaign media spending includes any public communications promoting, supporting, attacking, or opposing a candidate within six months of an election; referring to a candidate 90 days before a primary election; or even researching, designing, or producing content in preparation for public communication about a candidate. This expansive definition would include blog posts, articles, press releases, or social media posts.
Mussi told AZ Free News that the forced disclosure was tantamount to doxxing. He said the disclosures are a “well-known tactic” to silence dissent, referencing the ousting of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich after he donated to fund a California initiative declaring that marriage belongs between a man and a woman.
As a result of these concerns, AFEC filed a lawsuit to overturn Prop 211 last month. The nonprofit insists that First Amendment free speech protections also afford the right to not be forced to speak.
Joining AFEC is the Center For Arizona Policy (CAP), a conservative nonprofit, represented by the Goldwater Institute. The named defendants include Governor Katie Hobbs in her former capacity as secretary of state, as well as the Arizona Clean Elections Commission.
In a press release, Goldwater Institute (GI) Senior Attorney Scott Day Freeman stated that Prop 211 would force donors to choose between supporting causes and organizations they believed in or having their donations and private information publicized on a government list.
“The result will be less free speech, more harassment, and an uglier political discourse,” stated Day Freeman.
The main financier of the measure, David Tedesco, is the founder and CEO of the Phoenix-based venture capitalist firm, Outlier. The leader of the effort was Terry Goddard, the state’s former Democratic attorney general. Both men told The Washington Post that they disagreed with characterizations of Prop 211 by AFEC, CAP, and GI.
“Transparency and sunshine are happy words, but in reality disclosure laws have become a weapon used by the left to intimidate conservatives from engaging in politics. Groups trawl records for names and then organize social-media campaigns to harass and discourage donors,” wrote the board. “Americans looking to participate in campaigns can, and often do, see their names dragged through the mud. Many donors decline to engage, and political speech is chilled before it even happens.”
Tedesco rebutted that Prop 211 doesn’t present a free speech threat because it was backed financially by registered independents and Republicans. He said that voters had a right to know any financial sources behind free speech.