Arizonans for Clean and Accountable Elections suspends campaign, derides “dirty tricks” used by Arizona Chamber
Phoenix, Ariz.—Arizonans for Clean and Accountable Elections announced plans today to suspend signature-gathering efforts for its campaign.
The committee indicated that a petition-blocking scheme, which appeared to be spearheaded by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, thwarted the group’s effort to collect enough signatures to place the initiative on the 2016 ballot.
“We were inspired by the more than 100,000 voters who signed this petition to put everyday Arizonans back in charge of their elections,” said David Donnelly, president and CEO of Every Voice, a national reform organization that has been heavily involved in this effort. “We look forward to continuing our work in the state with Arizona Advocacy Network and other partners to strengthen the Clean Elections system and increase transparency and accountability in the process.”
Samantha Pstross, chair of the committee, stated, “We launched Arizonans for Clean and Accountable Elections as a response to voters’ growing concerns that what happens down at 1700 West Washington is less about what’s best for Arizona and more about what’s best for those paying for our lawmakers’ elections.”
“We knew our initiative would be unpopular with wealthy, establishment special interest groups such the Arizona Chamber and APS,” continued Pstross, “but we were determined that the unscrupulous tactics these groups used to doom the solar initiative would not also doom ours.”
The petition-blocking efforts began days after the Arizona Clean and Accountable Elections Act filed its paperwork. The campaign was negotiating a contract with a local petition-gathering firm—Sign Here Petitions—when negotiations were abruptly canceled. A few days later, a local reporter posted a photo that indicated the firm was circulating a newly filed anti-Clean Elections initiative along with anti-solar petitions.
Both the anti-Clean Elections and anti-solar campaigns were being run by the same Arizona consulting firm, and both initiatives were highlighted in an internal memo from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce that stated the group’s opposition to the ballot measures. When referring to the Arizona Clean and Accountable Elections initiative, the Chamber stated its intent to use “other means to prevent the collection of the necessary signatures to place it on the ballot.”
The petition-blocking efforts stymied the initiative, forcing the campaign to contract with an out-of-state petition-gathering firm and doubling the cost of its paid signature gathering efforts. The delays proved to be insurmountable, and the campaign realized it would not be able to collect the necessary number of signatures to make the 2016 ballot.
“Voters should be extremely concerned about the ability of special interest groups to obstruct citizen initiatives,” declared Pstross. “Regardless of how one feels about this particular initiative, petitioning our government is a right guaranteed to Arizonans in our state constitution. Shame on the Arizona Chamber and their dark money pals for corrupting our election process and fronting these anti-Arizonan and anti-democracy shenanigans.”
Pstross, who is also the executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, said her group is not giving up on its push to strengthen Clean Elections or fight the corrupting influence of money in politics.
“The Arizona Advocacy Network will continue its work as the hub for good government policy and the watchdog against corruption. We are continuing our fight against SB 1516, a disastrous and dangerous bill that dismantles necessary campaign finance laws and ushers in more of the types of secretive and dirty politicking that we have already witnessed from groups such as the Arizona Chamber and APS,” stated Pstross.
“We are encouraging all of our supporters and all Arizonans that believe in constitutional government--in a government of, by and for the people--to join the effort to refer SB 1516 to the ballot, and Stop Corruption Now,” Pstross said. “Arizonans want and deserve elections that work for them instead of big donors, and we will continue our work to make that happen.”
For more information on the referendum efforts, please visit azadvocacy.org.