- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Opponents of a new Arizona law that will allow more anonymous spending in state elections will begin collecting signatures Saturday in an effort to let voters weigh in on the law.

Democratic Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, is behind the effort to repeal the law he says will turn the state’s political process upside down. Public policy will no longer be about the merits of the legislation, he said, but who has more money to influence elected officials.

The law, which Gov. Doug Ducey approved, cedes regulation of dark money and other nonprofit groups to the Internal Revenue Service, essentially doubling the amount dark money groups can spend on ballot measures and allowing nonprofits to spend more money influencing elections without having to reveal donors.

Dark money is generally defined as political groups that do not report their donors.

Supporters of the new law, including Secretary of State Michele Reagan, say it is designed to simplify the state’s complex campaign finance code and promote free speech.

It also allows political donors to spend unlimited amounts on food and beverages to throw extravagant fundraisers without having to disclose a single dollar, and eliminated certain criminal violations, like making political contributions in the name of another person - although those could be placed back in through a follow-up bill the governor hasn’t yet acted on.

The new law takes effect starting in January.

Clark said the public is angry over the new law.

“People see what kind of power play this is and how this would enshrine this dark money in our policy-making process,” he said.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said it’s the group’s right to refer the measure to the voters, but it could backfire on them. If the repeal fails, the law will fall under the Voter Protection Act and will become much more difficult to overturn, he said.

“It’s a high risk game they are playing,” he said.

Mesnard said the changes designed by State Elections Director Eric Spencer promote the right to privacy.

Clark’s Stop Corruption Now committee has until early August to gather about 75,000 signatures needed to get on the November ballot.

The committee is considering filing a second referendum if Ducey signs another bill that would speed up some of the same changes as the donation law in time for the August primary election.

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