Claiming a First Amendment right to anonymity, lawsuit aims to strike down ‘dark money’ prop

Photo by Jim Small || Arizona Mirror


A lawsuit filed in federal court Friday aims to declare the anti-dark money ballot measure that Arizona voters approved last year unconstitutional on grounds that political donors have a First Amendment right to do so anonymously, among other claims. 

Voters widely approved Proposition 211 last year, with more than 70% of voters choosing to require that big-money donors disclose their names to political action committees. The Voters’ Right to Know Act triggers disclosure if an individual gives $5,000 or more to a committee that spent at least $50,000 on a given statewide or legislative race or ballot proposition. 

On local elections, the disclosure rate drops to $2,500 for individuals and $25,000 for committee spending. 

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Phoenix on Friday by the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity and its foundation says that such disclosures have a “chilling effect” on the free speech of Arizonans and are a violation of the First Amendment. 

“The First Amendment safeguards the right of individuals to donate to private advocacy organizations of their choosing without undue risk that they will be subjected to their identities being disclosed or other chilling by the government,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuit is similar to one filed in state court last year by the Center for Arizona Policy and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. 

At the heart of the lawsuit is the argument that anonymous political speech is protected by the First Amendment. Terry Goddard, a former Arizona attorney general and the driving force behind the Voters’ Right to Know Act, said the arguments against disclosure aren’t new — and have been rejected by courts. 

“I think the arguments they make have been thoroughly dealt with,” Goddard told the Arizona Mirror. 


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March 2023