Ending charity registration aided Dark Money |Green Valley News

When I was Attorney General, people would frequently ask me to investigate charities they had reason to believe might be ripping off consumers. While my budget didn’t allow me to investigate each case, I could at least tell people to check whether the charity was registered with the Secretary of State as a good indicator of legitimacy. If it was not registered, chances were good it was a fraud!

Until 2013, it was a crime in Arizona for a charity to raise money in our state without first registering with the Secretary of State. But, not anymore!

This registration requirement was designed to prevent scams and provide a paper trail for consumers deciding whether or not to donate to a purported charitable organization. Fraud still existed, but tracking it and being able to hold those committing it accountable was at least possible. 

Today, unfortunately, no such information or consumer protection measures exist.  Last year, the Legislature stripped the Secretary of State of the authority to make charities register  -– a move my opponent supported and the Arizona Nonprofit Alliance opposed. For consumers that repeal meant much greater exposure to fraud and fewer ways to fight it.

Ending the requirement for charities to register with the Secretary of State also created an opening for yet another form of fraud: Dark Money.

Dark Money groups present voters with information – oftentimes distorted or outright false – that neither a candidate, nor a candidate committee is accountable for.  To me, that’s election fraud.

The unfortunate decision to abolish charity registration is one reason why Arizona has become the Cayman Islands for Dark Money. Charity registration was one of the few abilities we had in Arizona to track down the source of the anonymous corporate cash flooding into our state to influence elections. Other states have used charity regulations to curb dark money. Arizona no longer can.

Allowing dark money groups to hide their donors is a clear violation of the disclosure guidelines laid out in the Citizens United decision, lenient as they may be.  Arizona isn’t just tolerating Dark Money groups that operate in our state; it’s empowering them.

We must stop Dark Money from hijacking our Democracy. My plan to stop Dark Money is on my websiteterrygoddard.com.  Bringing back the registration requirement for charities would be a big step in the right direction.

Terry Goddard is the Democrat candidate for Secretary of State.

Originally posted to the Green Valley News on October 18, 2014

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