PHOENIX (Wednesday, January 18, 2012) -- Attorney General Tom Horne, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Representative Eddie Farnsworth today in a news conference announced new legislation, House Bill 2385, a bill that will make changes to existing law related to campaign finance regulations and so called “Citizens United” organizations. The bill will ensure the integrity of Arizona’s electoral process by expanding corporate disclosure requirements.
Currently, a corporation, limited liability company, or labor organization that makes expenditures to influence the outcome of an election (independent expenditures), of more than $5,000 statewide, or $2,500 legislative, or $1,000 local, shall register and notify the appropriate filing officer one day after making expenditure. However, this has proved inadequate, and the new legislation will strengthen disclosure requirements and ensure that the sources of political ads are known to the public.
Attorney General Tom Horne stated: “The US Supreme Court in the Citizens United opinion said: ‘the First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.’”
The current laws should be strengthened to mandate the necessary reporting required to know who is contributing in the political races around the state. Many corporations have established themselves just in advance of an election, for the primary purpose of funding a campaign and influencing the outcome.
"In the wake of the 'Citizens United' ruling by the Supreme Court, numerous corporations were seemingly formed for no other purpose than to influence our electoral process," said Secretary Bennett. "Our legislation seeks to ensure that a corporation, limited liability company or labor organization disclose their contributions and expenditures when exercising their 1st amendment rights to free speech.
"Our office received numerous complaints regarding these entities last cycle and our efforts to bring them into compliance with the state's campaign finance law proved to be a challenge. This bill strengthens the law and provides the additional tools necessary for successful enforcement of state statutes."
"Transparency and accountability are vital when it comes to elections," Representative Farnsworth said. In 2011 we saw a proliferation of new corporations participating in local elections. If these entities primary purpose is to influence an election, they should simply form as a political committee and file their campaign finance reports. Our goal is to allow the public the opportunity to see who is making political expenditures in a campaign and where the money came from."
Horne added: “The changes we propose today will provide the Attorney General’s office with the ability to investigate groups that fail to register, will provide private citizens with a right to bring actions, and will provide for injunctions, so that illegal action can be stopped before it determines the outcome of an election, and fines at that point become meaningless.”