- Associated Press - Saturday, May 7, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The House passed a proposal late Friday that would relax rules on anonymous political spending in time for the August primary election.

The bill was amended to include borrowed language from a campaign finance rewrite that Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law earlier this year.

That language increases the influence of dark money groups generally defined as tax-exempt organizations that spend money on elections and do not report their donors.

Dark money has been a hotly debated topic since 2010 when the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United made it possible for groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns and keep the identities of the contributors a secret.

The amendment on House Bill 2296 cedes regulation of dark money and other nonprofit groups to the Internal Revenue Service, essentially doubling the amount these groups can spend on ballot measures.

It also lets nonprofit groups spend more money influencing elections without having to reveal donors.

The House passed the proposal on a 31-25 vote Friday confirming an amendment added in the Senate. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Voters looking to overturn the campaign finance rewrite would now have to file two referendums to have the language overturned in two sections of law.

Democrats railed against the measure late Friday calling the effort a slight against voters.

“What it does is it undermines the potential of the voters to have their say,” said Rep. Ken Clark of Phoenix while explaining his vote.

Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, said the goal of his amendment is to move up the date so the language can be used before the upcoming elections.

Other Republicans say the proposal is really about stopping overreach by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

“They invent authority as they go claiming this is what the voters meant,” said Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler.

Tom Collins, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the commission is working within its parameters to demand that organizations file campaign reports if they spend a majority of their funding to influence elections.

“Why would we have to change the law if we are doing something outside the bounds of the law? It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

The proposal could also impact ballot initiatives in the November election, which are likely to include a vote on the legalization for recreational marijuana and could include a measure that increases the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

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