Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Washington Requests IRS Investigation into Dark Money Group’s Spending in 2014 Governor’s Race
– The Arizona Future Fund, a non-profit organization, could soon be under IRS Investigation for violating federal law for misreporting its political spending in the 2014 Governor’s Race. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Washington (CREW) filed the complaint with the IRS on Wednesday, and claims the group admitted to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission that it made political expenditures, but then denied any such spending to the IRS. AFF was a non-profit unincorporated association established in 2014 in Washington, D.C. William Canfield was its general counsel and is a “nationally recognized GOP election and political attorney.”
In the weeks before the 2014 Arizona Republican primary for governor, AFF ran television, newspaper, digital, and billboard advertisements promoting Mesa Mayor Scott Smith’s candidacy. After complaints were filed with Arizona campaign finance authorities, AFF and Canfield acknowledged in a settlement that the advertisements were independent expenditures with no purpose other than to advocate for Mayor Smith’s election. Oddly though, AFF told the IRS it didn’t participate in any political activity in 2014, which conflicts with what the group told the Clean Elections Commission.
“The disastrous Citizens United decision opened up the floodgates for dark money groups to spend on politics,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “But there are still some limits to the amount of spending and secrecy these groups are permitted—and too many brazenly ignore these modest limits.”
In addition, AFF admitted it spent $315,575 on these advertisements, accounting for more than 66% of its total spending in 2014. As is the pattern with many of these dark money groups, AFF simply went out of business at the end of 2014, claiming that it had achieved its social welfare purposes. That purpose being to get Scott Smith elected as Arizona’s Governor.
“It’s ridiculous for AFF to deny its primary purpose was political when it admitted that to the Arizona Clean Elections Commission. It’s another example of a dark money group taking advantage of our lax campaign finance laws and buying elections for their own advantage,” said Josselyn Berry, Interim Executive Director for Progress Now Arizona.
Samatha Pstross is the Executive Director of Arizona Advocacy Network; a group fighting dark money in Arizona and running a ballot measure to make elections more accountable. “It’s encouraging to see CREW take a stand against political corruption and the flow of dark money in Arizona, but we need more watchdogs making sure this doesn’t keep happening in the 2016 elections, Pstross said. “Instances like this prove we need better blockades and this type of corruption is exactly what the Arizona Clean and Accountable Elections Act intends to stop once and for all.”