Arizona Attorney General agrees: Tempe’s dark money disclosure rules are perfectly legal
Tempe, AZ – A March 2018 dark money disclosure ballot measure approved by 91 percent of Tempe voters is completely legal and can continue, according to an opinion issued today by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Both the ballot measure and its companion, Council-adopted ordinance, were determined to comply with state law.
The Attorney General’s analysis was prompted by the second complaint about Tempe from southern Arizona state Senator Vince Leach. He argued that Tempe’s ballot measure conflicted with an April 2018 state law prohibiting cities from implementing dark money disclosure regulations.
Tempe has maintained that, as a charter city under Arizona law, the city and its residents can regulate local elections. The city has expressed its belief that disclosure obligations maintain the public trust, eliminate potential corruption and fraud in elections, and improve transparency and integrity, and that they do not prevent free speech.
According to the Attorney General’s opinion, “No evidence demonstrates that the ordinance was intended to conflict with state law – indeed it was adopted and took effect before the state law at issue here became effective. Both the state and charter cities may legislate in the same field.”
Brnovich further offered that the state law, which specifically prohibits disclosure requirements for non-profit donors, and the city charter amendment, which does not call out non-profits, can be harmonized and enforced independently.
Mayor Mark Mitchell said he is pleased that the Attorney General’s opinion in Tempe’s favor has the effect of maintaining local decision-making over matters that are clearly within the purview of charter cities, such as election issues.
“This is great news for our residents who overwhelmingly supported the measure to establish greater transparency about who attempts to influence our local elections,” Mitchell said. “We have always believed we took this action legally with our residents. I am gratified that we can confidently let our residents’ voices be heard and we can now move on.”
Contact: Nikki Ripley, City of Tempe, firstname.lastname@example.org 480-350-8846