- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A group seeking to reform campaign finance laws filed a proposed ballot measure Tuesday they say increases disclosure and limits the influence of lobbyists, special interests and anonymous political spending in Arizona politics.

Arizonans for Clean and Accountable Elections filed the initiative to combat elections reforms enacted under Senate Bill 1516, a measure critics say threatens to flood Arizona politics with anonymous political spending.

Samantha Pstross, who chairs the committee, said the measure is designed to reduce the power of special interests and empower everyday people.

“Our initiative addresses the most egregious parts of 1516,” she said. “I want my representatives to be thinking about me and my family and average Arizonans and not their donors.”

The Clean and Accountable Elections Act would increase disclosure of tax-exempt organizations that include dark money groups.

It would also cut individual contributions for statewide candidates by two-thirds, prevent contributions between candidates and require corporations that spend more than $10,000 on elections to disclose high-end donors.

The proposed initiative also adds new rules requiring lobbyists to disclose all meals purchased for elected officials and bans them from paying for a lawmaker’s travel.

The initiative campaign has less than three months to collect more than 150,000 valid signatures necessary to get on the November ballot.

Some members in the business community have voiced concerns the proposed ballot initiative might reduce political speech through lowering contribution limits.

Garrick Taylor, spokesman for Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the chamber would also likely oppose any increased funding for clean elections, pending a review by the board of the directors. “With all the issues facing the state of Arizona, Arizonans do not need to be paying for yard signs and robo-calls,” Taylor said.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law last month, though it’s not set to take effect until next year. The law was touted by Republicans and Secretary of State Michele Reagan as a simplification of state campaign finance laws despite making several substantive changes to law that include:

- Increasing the amount dark money groups can spend on elections without revealing their donors.

- Allowing politicians to give as much as $6,250 in campaign contributions to each other, the so-called “kingmaker provision.”

- Letting political donors spend unlimited amounts on food and beverages to throw extravagant fundraisers without having to disclose a single dollar.

- Removing provisions that make it illegal for people to make political contributions in the name of another person or organization.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said he plans to resolve many of the concerns people have with 1516 through an upcoming bill.

“I suspect that they might want to check out the trailer bill we’re going to push because it might address a lot of those issues,” he said.

Mesnard said plans to reinsert the criminal provisions and is looking at contributions between candidates, among other amendments to the bill.

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