The left’s network of dark money appears to have successfully influenced voters in passing Propositions 209 and 308.
Prop 209, the Predatory Debt Collection Act, was passed by voters overwhelmingly, 72 to 28 percent. It’s a California-union backed effort to eradicate all debt collection in the state; the political action committee (PAC) driving support for the measure received the vast majority of its $12.7 million from the California union, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW). They’re rooted in the leftist infrastructure of dark money, since they don’t disclose the source of their millions in funding.
Marketing for Prop 209 promised a protection against medical debt collection. However, the measure goes much further by encompassing all other debts. The measure essentially makes all debt collection futile.
Prop 308, which would award in-state college tuition rates to Dreamers, was passed narrowly, 51 to 49 percent. According to the campaign finance data, the proposition was backed by at least $1.2 million in out-of-state dark money, such as NextGen, SEIU-UHW, United We Dream, and American Business Immigration Coalition Action.
Another $1 million came from Chicanos Por La Causa, a Phoenix-based organization, though their tax returns indicate that neither their organization or their political action arm raise anywhere near that amount in revenue respectively.
Those millions together make up the vast majority of the $2.6 million raised, $1.8 million spent to back the measure.
In-state tuition rates for Dreamers will add onto the increasing cost burden faced by Arizona’s public schools. As AZ Free News reported in September, illegal immigrant children cost Arizona public schools over $748 million in 2020.
The influence of leftist dark money will likely only grow in strength in the coming years, thanks to the success of another proposition.
Prop 211, the Voters’ Right to Know Act, was also passed by voters overwhelmingly, 72 to 27 percent. It proposes to remedy the influence of dark money in the state. However, it establishes neat carveouts ensuring leftist dark money isn’t affected: corporate media, Big Tech, labor unions, and “nonpartisan” PACs.
The main financier of the measure, David Tedesco, is the founder and CEO of the Phoenix-based venture capitalist firm, Outlier.
Tedesco donates heavily to both Democrats and Republicans according to state and FEC campaign finance records. He spent $211,600 backing Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s failed Senate campaign. He’s given at least $116,400 to Democrats for this election: $100,000 to the Arizona Democratic Party, over $5,000 to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs, over $5,000 to Congressman Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09), and over $5,000 to failed Democratic candidate Aaron Lieberman.
A new nonprofit, Save Democracy, wants to make primary elections nonpartisan through a forthcoming ballot initiative. They haven’t launched a formal campaign yet, but mentioned an aim to make the 2024 ballot.
The organization advocates for election reforms like ranked-choice voting (RCV), which proposes that individuals rank candidates into a preference list when voting. Two red states, Utah and Alaska, and nine blue states — California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and New York — all have some form of RCV system in play. Save Democracy also advocates for unaffiliated candidates to be listed in primary elections.
“Until our system encourages broader voter turnout and equal treatment of candidates, it will continue to support tiny minorities of voters deciding the outcome of elections,” states the nonprofit on its website.
Arizona allows independent voters to vote in primaries via an open primary provision, so long as they request the type of ballot they want to receive. However, independent voters must change their voter registration for presidential preference elections. And, unlike Democratic and Republican primaries, the Libertarian Party has a closed primary.
However, Save Democracy declares that Arizona elections aren’t open because they’re favored to serve partisanship over independent candidacy.
The nonprofit’s leadership consists of Sarah Smallhouse, Si Schorr, Ted Hinderaker, and Don Budinger.
Since 2005, Smallhouse has donated over $15,300 to Democrats and over $7,600 to Republicans at the federal level (though none of her Republican donations were in the last decade).
Since 2004, Schorr has donated nearly $18,400 to Democrats and none to Republicans at the federal level.
Since 2006, Hinderaker has donated nearly $3,500 to Democrats and over $3,500 to Republicans at the federal level.
Since 2000, Budinger has donated over $74,100 to Democrats and $58,400 to Republicans at the federal level.
Smallhouse, Budinger, and Schorr have all served in leadership within the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC); Smallhouse and Hinderacker both serve leadership roles on University of Arizona (UArizona) boards.
SALC is an association of C-suite business and community leaders. Past board chairs hailed from Arizona State University (ASU) and giant corporations like Tucson Electric Power, Raytheon Missile Systems, IBM, Cox Communications, and Southwest Gas. In addition to Save Democracy, their partners include the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AHHA), Chicanos Por La Causa, and the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy.
Most notably in recent years, SALC coordinated a campaign to defeat Prop 205, a ballot measure that would have established a sanctuary city in Tucson.
Smallhouse, a longtime Democratic donor, pointed out in a June article that independent and “other” voters outnumbered partisan alternatives. Over 1.4 million voters (33 percent) are registered as “other,” closing in on well over 1.4 million registered Republicans (34 percent) and outnumbering the 1.3 million registered Democrats (31 percent). The number of “other” voters increased by over 128,200 since the 2020 election, outpacing the near-44,900 growth of Republican registrations by nearly three times over.
Smallhouse argued that elections weren’t competitive enough to reflect this voter demographic.
“Our current partisan primary system, paid for by all taxpayers, excludes certain candidates and creates massive barriers to participation for voters not affiliated with a political party,” wrote Smallhouse.
Two high-profile members of Save Democracy, when it comes to issues of election integrity and voter rights, are State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer.
Also members are Pima County Supervisor Rex Scott, Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce Chairman Edmund Marquez, former Republican congressman Jim Kolbe, former Democratic congressman Ron Barber, former Phoenix mayor and Redirect Health CEO Paul Johnson, former Mesa mayor Scott Smith, Arizona State University (ASU) assistant vice president of media relations Jay Thorne, SALC director Nicole Barraza, Voter Choice Arizona executive member Blake Sacha, Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture Executive Director Paul Brierley, S+C Communications co-founder Chip Scutari, Duncan Family Farms board chairman Arnott Duncan, Water Policy and State Affairs Senior Director Kevin Moran, and Greater Phoenix Leadership Executive Vice President Heather Carter.