Progressive dark money group fails to disclose spending

A few weeks ago, Chispa AZ PAC, a little-known advocacy group, dumped nearly $4 million into advertising in support of Democratic candidates. But the committee did not follow proper disclosure requirements, according to a complaint filed by Republican Corporation Commission candidate Rodney Glassman.

Now, the Public Integrity Alliance is weighing in, agreeing with Glassman that Chispa AZ PAC violated the law.

“Upon learning of Mr. Glassman’s complaint, the Committee belatedly disclosed to the Commission over $3.7 million in independent expenditures,  arguing that the Commission should excuse its chronic delinquencies because (a) the infractions were ‘self-reported;’ and (b) the transactions allegedly had been previously disclosed under the name of the League of Conservation Voters, a separate entity that bears no discernible legal relationship to the Committee,” stated Tyler Montague, president of Public Integrity Alliance, Inc. in a letter to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Chispa AZ PAC is a project of the League of Conservation Voters, a left-wing activist organization focused on environmental policies. The group has ties to California billionaire Tom Steyer who has spent millions against Republican candidates since his efforts to ratchet up renewable energy standards in Arizona are likely to fail on Election Day according to recent polls.

According to the letter from the Public Integrity Alliance, Chispa AZ violated Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 16-941(D), -958(A) and Ariz. Admin. Code R2-20-109, which states “any person who makes independent expenditures related to a particular office cumulatively exceeding five hundred dollars” within an election cycle, “shall file reports with the secretary of state in accordance with section 16-958 so indicating, identifying the office and the candidate or group of candidates whose election or defeat is being advocated and stating whether the person is advocating election or advocating defeat.”

The letter goes on to say that “voters wishing to exercise their statutory right to acquire data concerning the Committee’s independent expenditure activities were unable to locate and access such information; at worst, they were affirmatively misled into believing that the League of Conservation Voters made independent expenditures that in fact were attributable solely to the Committee.”

A 2016 enforcement action is cited in the letter, which consisted of much smaller expenditures by the House and Senate Victory PACs. Montague urges the Commission to “hold left-wing enterprises such as the Committee to the same stringent standard of compliance it has demanded of conservative organizations in the past.”

According to elections attorney Kory Langhofer, the dark money group clearly violated the law, which should result in appropriate fines.

“Conservative groups have been attacked over disclosure issues for years, even when following the law,” Langhofer said. “Now we have a clear disclosure violation involving millions of dollars from a progressive group. Let’s see how the press and Clean Elections Commission react. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.”

The pre-general campaign finance report reveals that the dark money group has received their funding from the League of Conservation Voters Inc, and the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, totaling nearly $4 million. Prior campaign finance reports show the group raised and spent very little money before the large cash infusion from the League of Conservation Voters. For example, the group ended the 3rd quarter with only $750, only raising $6,500 during the reporting period.

Lorna Romero

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