Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard launched a campaign to help stop dark money in Arizona. Goddard, who thinks money given anonymously to political campaigns, has created a new non-profit to fight dark money. He’ll talk about his new organization, the Vox Populi Association of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Former state Attorney General Terry Goddard announced a plan today to take on dark money with an effort called Vox populi association. Here to tell us about VPA is Terry Goddard. Good to see you again.
Terry Goddard: Ted, pleasure to be here.
Ted Simons: Is it Vox populi association or Vox populi Arizona?
Terry Goddard: We have it two ways. It's an association but we have abbreviated to VPA, because Vox populi gets everybody confused, Arizona. The only thing you have to remember from that is not the Latin but the fact that it's an effort to fight dark money. That's why it was set up. It's on the web now. There's a website, you can go to stopdarkmoney.org or go to VPAArizona.org. No playing around.
Ted Simons: Let's find out, first goal is to stop dark money. How do you do that?
Terry Goddard: Hopefully in the legislature. So I'm waiting and watching and praying a little to see if our legislators, many of whom have made very strong statements that dark money, corporate money is that disguised, you don't know who the contributor is, it uses as whole lot of corporate intermediaries to disguise who really is behind the ads that you see on TV, and last year in Arizona there was $15 million in every election, every race statewide received a lot of this dark money. You basically don't know who is trying to buy your vote. I think that's absolutely wrong. How do you stop it? You stop it with disclosure, sunlight. You say, if you're going to play politics in Arizona, you have an obligation or the state has an obligation to require you to say where your money came from. We don't do that today. Arizona has become the Cayman Islands literally for dark money. Tens of millions of dollars from other states have been washing through Arizona and then go out to pollute other places as well as our elections.
Ted Simons: How do you go back to find out who the donor is when it can be a labyrinth, daisy chain times ten. If I'm the original donor I have all sorts of ways to hide the money.
Terry Goddard: That's right. That used to be -- I used to be the Attorney General. One of the number one groups we went after were money launderers. This is money laundering. It's not illegal in Arizona, let me say that, it should be, and we need to go after it and make it so. But the same techniques that we used in the Attorney General's office of research and of diligence and following the money are what you have to use on dark money. I think the legislature has to define it very carefully. We have to make sure that we have a definition where you can't just take the person or the company that was the most recent contributor. That will always be a phony. That will always be one of these very happy sounding companies, citizens for better government, citizens for good things. Who are the ones that are shielding the real donor. So the way I define it is the original donor pays the taxes on the money but we need to massage that and get a precise definition. The legislature needs to make it clear. If they don't, the reason Vox populi is out there, the reason we have VPA Arizona, is to do a petition drive. I seriously believe it may come to that. If it does, then I intend along with some other hopefully very sharp lawyers, I'm not one but they are, will draft something that will in fact get after the transparency issue so that Arizona will make sure that all political money is transparent.
Ted Simons: For those who say donors have a right to be anonymous, you say --
Terry Goddard: I say nonsense. Nonsense. There is no legal right for a corporate donor to remain secret. The Supreme Court of the United States has been very clear about that in a number of cases including the one that created this problem, Citizens United. Justice Kennedy was eloquent saying there is no right to hide. Justice Scalia in a different case said he wouldn't want to live in a country where political discussion was held anonymously and I agree with him on that. We don't always agree but that's one where he hit the nail on the head.
Ted Simons: If that's what you're seeing as interpretation from the highest court in the land why with we not seen more in the way of lawsuits? The high court did say in citizens United that much of this activity is legal.
Terry Goddard: Citizens United said clearly, corporations are people. And because they are people they have a right to contribute to politics. Then they said they have an unlimited right. They basically took away the limits. Before citizens United corporate contributions were illegal in Arizona and other contributions faced a very severe campaign contribution limit. Citizens United basically blew that up. It did not, however, many people think it did but it did not create a conspiracy of secrecy. It did not say to corporate donors, you can remain secret. You don't have to tell anybody what you're doing. You can come try to buy the election and stay in the shadows. That's exactly what we're trying to do is to eliminate the shadows, trying to say in Arizona as they have done in California and many other states, Utah included, they have required disclosure of political operatives. They don't allow them to hide. Arizona allows them to hide. That's got to stop. This is a bipartisan issue. Republicans were hurt just like Democrats in the last election and I believe we can get a bipartisan consensus rolling here that dark money has to be terminated in Arizona.
Ted Simons: This group is a 501c4?
Terry Goddard: Yes, the irony of that is that most of the people we're fighting against are 501c4s. The fact that you're a C4 doesn't mean you're bad. If you were set up entirely to decide who the real contributors are that's a different proposal. This organization will disclose its contributors, $5 or $1,000. We're not in that business. We're in the business of trying to persuade people they have rights being abused and there are corporate interests trying to buy our state.
Ted Simons: Full disclosure.
Terry Goddard: I gotta tell people up front. Some issues you know survive the election. I said in the last summer that I was going to pursue stopping dark money and I'm serious about it. I need help.
Ted Simons: Last question. If I'm running Ted's Hamburger Hamlet and I want to donate a lot of money to candidate X, but I know a lot of my customers -- I could lose customers if they know I'm supporting that particular candidate.
Terry Goddard: Too bad, Ted.
Ted Simons: Who protects Hamburger Hamlet?
Terry Goddard: You and every other citizen have the right to speak up in the political dialogue but in that speaking up you need to have the courage of your convictions and say this is my opinion. You don't have I believe under law of the United States and the First Amendment to say, oh, I'm going to say this secretly. I'm going to put millions into this campaign but I don't want anyone to know I'm behind it. Let's look at why you might want to be secret. Maybe your customers will think badly of you. If you're in the political dialogue you take that risk. People don't like me because things I have done in political discussion I'm sure. I won't go into business. The bottom line, I think, is they don't want people to know about it because they know if they did their support would be toxic to the candidates that they are supporting. Somebody stood up and said I'm corporation X, Y, Z, supporting candidate Joe, many people may say, that's not the side I want to be on. So that company resorts to secrecy and stays in the shadows. We in Arizona have allowed them to do it and that needs to stop.
Ted Simons: Always a pleasure.
Terry Goddard: Thanks.
Terry Goddard:Former Attorney General, Arizona;