Push a sympathetic message. Drum up a bunch of misguided support. And then aim for a ridiculous tax increase. That was the strategy from Red4ED after it launched a little over four years ago.
In that spring of 2018, the color red was popping up all over the place—from Facebook profile pictures to protests at the state Capitol. And it was supposedly all about increasing teacher salaries and funding for K-12 education. It was a movement that had great momentum, a sycophant media, and a political class that was terrified to stand up to them. Yet they figured out how to, in four short years, go from a political juggernaut to one of the largest and most expensive failures in Arizona political history.
Of course, defeating this multiyear assault on Arizona by Invest in Ed was a huge win for taxpayers, job creators, and the future prosperity of our state. And it would not have been possible without a combination of political miscalculations and blunders by the Red4ED decision makers and a consistent, sustained opposition from key organizations and elected officials willing to stand up to the bullies behind the movement…
Invest in Arizona, a campaign to have voters overturn three Senate bills via a ballot referendum, failed a signature review for at least one of their efforts in their three-prong approach: the ballot to overturn SB1783. The Secretary of State’s attorney, Spencer Sharff, shared this information during oral arguments Friday in the case Arizona Free Enterprise Club, et al. v. Katie Hobbs, et al. (CV2021-011491). The campaign reportedly turned in over 123,500 signatures, but only 100,300 were valid. Signature reviews for the other two are underway.
Invest in Arizona characterized SB1783 as a “direct attack” on Prop 208, the ballot initiative passed last year to accrue more educational funds by imposing an additional 3.5 percent surcharge on taxpayers with an annual income over $250,000 for those filing individually or $500,000 filing jointly.
“It gives wealthy individuals a new loophole to use to avoid paying taxes,” claimed Invest in Arizona.
A ruling is pending in the case, which named both Invest in Arizona and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as defendants. The plaintiff, Arizona Free Enterprise Club, argued that Invest in Arizona’s referendum would violate the state constitution.
“The Arizona Constitution even provides that legislative actions ‘for the support and maintenance of the departments of state government and state institutions’ may not be the subject of a referendum,” asserted the group. “And as our complaint contends, these provisions ‘provide for, and directly relate to, the generation of revenues that are remitted to the general fund and appropriated to various agencies, departments and instrumentalities of the state government.’ That means they are not referable. It also means that [Hobbs] must refuse to accept for filing, verification, or certification any petition in support of these three referendums.”
As AZ Free News reported, out-of-state donors gave millions to Invest in Arizona. One of their principal donors, the National Education Association (NEA), donated over $2.4 million, $30,000 of which Invest in Arizona refunded. The NEA has come under fire by its state associations and the nation at large after it submitted a letter to the Biden Administration requesting parents and community members protesting or getting involved in school board operations be investigated for domestic terrorism.
Just days later, the Biden Administration heeded the NEA’s request. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo directing the FBI and local agencies to investigate the NEA’s claims. It appears that the NEA was comfortable with reaching out for Garland’s assistance: they submitted formal letters of endorsement on behalf of his appointment earlier this year.
In August, the Arizona Supreme Court found that the majority of Prop 208 was “likely unconstitutional,” but remanded the case to a lower court. The justices determined that the constitutionality of the proposition wouldn’t be evident until revenue is accrued: that is, if Prop 208 exceeds the state constitution’s limits on education spending. If the trial court agrees with the supreme court’s assessment, then Prop 208 would be struck down.
Invest in Arizona wants you to believe that they ran a grassroots campaign. But that notion is absurd. And you don’t need to look very far to find out.
Recently, the political committee filed its campaign finance report. And lo and behold, what does it show? That the National Education Association (NEA) and Stand for Children, two out-of-state special interest groups, purchased the referendum against historic tax cuts that Republicans delivered earlier this year.
Just look at the numbers. In Quarter 3, Invest in Arizona received just over $16,000 from individual donors. Now, compare that to the nearly $2.4 million it received from the NEA and the more than $2.3 million it received in cash, goods, and services from Stand for Children.
That’s more than $4.5 million—basically their entire budget—with the overwhelming majority spent on gathering signatures.
So much for “grassroots,” eh?
Of course, Stand for Children is trying to claim that its money came from its Phoenix office. But these groups can’t be trusted…
Invest in Arizona – a referendum to reverse the tax cuts passed recently by the Arizona legislature that would negate Prop 208 – reported several million in out-of-state funds in their latest campaign finance report. The National Education Association (NEA) donated over $2.4 million, $30,000 of which Invest in Arizona refunded.
The second-largest source of funds, nearly $2.4 million, came from Stand for Children Arizona, the local chapter of the national education advocacy group, Stand for Children. Stand for Children’s Arizona chapter hasn’t always donated to Invest in Arizona. Up until last July, their national organization headquartered in Portland, Oregon was responsible for those million-dollar donations.
Together, the NEA and Stand for Children Arizona comprised the vast majority of Invest in Arizona’s funds. Individual contributions amounted to just over $16,600, while total funds were reported to be over $4.7 million.
AZ Free News inquired with Stand for Children Arizona about these recent donation patterns: specifically, whether these donations were furnished from their national organization to their local chapter. This was their response:
“Thank you for reaching out! Stand for Children Arizona has a long history supporting families in AZ,” stated Stand for Children Arizona spokesperson Carlos Alfaro. “Our support of Invest in AZ is one piece of that, as indicated by the donation of our 501c4 organization Stand for Children, Inc.”
A majority of the over-$4 million that Invest in Arizona raised went toward operating expenses – signature gathering to submit their two referendums. The top recipients, in order, were: Fieldworks LLC with nearly $4 million alone, Save Our Schools Arizona with $115,000, Arizona Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander for Equity (AZ AANHPI For Equity) Coalition with $10,000, Fieldcorps LLC with $75,500, La Machine with $65,000, and Valley Interfaith Project with $29,000.
Invest in Arizona also spent $48,000 in polling from Lake Research, $5,000 for campaign consultancy from Strategies 360, and gave Valley Interfaith Project an additional $49,000 for text messaging outreach, field organizers and coordinators, outreach captains, and travel expenses.