American cities have become increasingly liberal, while the Republican Party controls most state governments. In an effort to keep blue cities from passing local ordinances reflecting their values, Republicans legislators in state capitals have embraced pre-emption laws, preventing city governments from enacting all kinds of things: Protecting their residents from discrimination, for instance, or increasing the minimum wage. Now Republicans in the Arizona state legislature are using that power to protect the flow of dark money — cash spent on campaigns from secret donors — into state and local elections. It turns out some powerful national interests are involved in making sure that local communities don’t know who is spending money to influence their elections.
Last month, the city of Tempe, the home of Arizona State University and long a liberal bastion, passed a ballot initiative — supported by 91 percent of voters — that would require any group spending more than $1,000 on a local election to disclose its donors. (Nearby Phoenix is considering a similar bill.) In a swift and startling response, both houses of the state legislature passed HB 2153, which forbids Tempe or any other cities that pass such laws from enforcing them. Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican and a major beneficiary of generous dark money spending, is expected to sign the bill soon.
“When you have a party that’s becoming more reliant on this handful of secretive special interest donors, you see them reacting to protect where their money’s coming from,” Adam Bozzi, the communications director for End Citizens United, told Salon.