Few pro-Proposition 208 contributions from individual Arizona donors

The vast majority of funding for an initiative campaign to raise income taxes on individuals and small businesses comes from out-of-state unions and interest groups, according to a review of the campaign’s finance records

Since January, InvestInEd, the group backing Proposition 208, has raised more than $4.6 million, however only $31,143 have come from individual contributions made by Arizonans. The remaining 99.3 percent has come from Portland, Oregon-based Stand for Children, the Arizona Education Association, and other special interest groups. 

“Arizona’s initiative process was never intended to be a petri dish for experimental policy cooked up by wealthy special interests from around the country,” Arizona Free Enterprise Club President Scot Mussi said in June.

In May, InvestInEd described themselves as “A grassroots movement to restore K-12 education funding and power our economic recovery.” 

However, the group’s campaign finance records belie the claims of the initiative’s supporters that the campaign enjoys deep Arizona-based grassroots support.

Nearly all pro-Prop. 208 funding coming from special interests

The initiative campaign has raised more than $4.6 million this year from:

·      Stand for Children, Inc. Portland, Oregon-based Stand for Children is funding the majority of the initiative campaign, with over 87 percent of contributions totaling $4,081,574 coming from the group. The vast majority of their contributions have been earmarked for signature collection. The group is active in nine states and previously supported a similar Arizona ballot initiative in 2018 that failed to secure a spot on the ballot. 

·      Arizona Education Association The Arizona Education Association, the National Education Association’s Arizona affiliate, has contributed $456,780. The National Education Association, based in Washington, D.C. is the nation’s largest labor union with over 2.2 million members.

·      Children’s Action Alliance The Children’s Action Alliance, an advocacy group, has contributed more than $85,000 to the ballot initiative.

·      Arizona Individual Contributions Arizonans themselves have contributed $31,143 to the group, only .67 percent of all contributions.

·      Save our Schools Arizona Save our Schools Arizona, another advocacy group, has contributed $23,100. This group in 2018 successfully led the opposition to Proposition 305. That vote resulted in fewer Arizona families having access to private school choice. The group also led the opposition to a legislative reform adopted in 2020 allowing Navajo children to access the Empowerment Scholarship Account program to attend a private school on the Navajo Nation on the New Mexico side of the stateline.

History of out-of-state interest groups funding Arizona ballot initiatives

According to Mussi, “Based on the current signature requirements and constitutional protections for paying circulators to collect signatures, it is possible to gather enough signatures to qualify a measure for the ballot for around $2 million dollars.”

Because of this relatively low barrier to entry, Arizona has had multiple ballot initiative efforts funded by out-of-state groups each election year.

In 2016, Arizonans For Fair Wages and Healthy Families used the ballot initiative process to raise Arizona’s minimum wage and impose a new paid leave mandate on Arizona employers. The group received over $1.5 million from national groups such as the CPD Action, the National Education Association, and the Sixteen Thirty Fund.

Two years later, Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona—a group almost entirely funded by California billionaire and 2020 presidential candidate Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action—gathered enough signatures for a proposition to require Arizona to use at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Sixty-eight percent of Arizonans voted against it.

Arjun Rondla

Arjun Rondla is an undergraduate studying political science at Arizona State University and an intern at Chamber Business News.

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