Anonymous Money Floods Phoenix Pension Vote

Phoenix Proposition 487

A Phoenix ballot initiative – titled Proposition 487 – would block off the city’s traditional pension system from all new hires, and instead shift those employees into a new, 401(k)-style plan.

Unions have made no secret of their disdain for the initiative and have raised over $100,000, mostly from firefighters, to fund ads opposing the potential law.

But support for Proposition 487 is strong as well – $428,200 has been raised in support of the measure. The only problem: no one knows where that money is coming from. From the Arizona Republic:

Conservative advocacy groups with secretive funding sources are pouring money into a ballot-initiative effort to end the city pension system in Phoenix.

While it’s clear unions are bankrolling the opposition to Proposition 487, the sources of the pro side’s campaign war chest are unknown. Most of its cash has come from anonymous “dark money” groups — and the state is investigating its largest corporate backer over a complaint alleging campaign-finance violations.

So far, Citizens for Phoenix Pension Reform has received 98.5 percent of its money from corporate groups that don’t have to disclose their funding sources.

Campaign-finance reports filed late last week show the group has overwhelmingly outraised government-worker unions, raking in $428,200 through the Sept. 15 reporting period.


Most of the pro-reform group’s money — $335,750 — has come from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a non-profit corporation that’s not required to reveal its funding sources.

Because of its non-profit status, it does not have to disclose donors and therefore is considered a dark-money group. But it is required to spend more than half of its money on social-welfare causes. However, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office concluded in August that there was “reasonable cause” to believe the Free Enterprise Club has violated elections laws and investigated its activities. Elections officials believe the club operates more like a political committee, which must disclose donors, than a non-profit.

Union groups are none too happy about the secretive funding sources. From the Arizona Republic:

Labor leaders against the initiative have made the shadow money a centerpiece of their campaign, posting hundreds of “Dark Money” arrows pointing to “YES on 487″ signs across the city. They assert the outside groups are propped up by right-wing billionaires and Wall Street bankers, who would benefit from axing pensions.

“If you have nothing to fear, say where your money is coming from,” said Frank Piccioli, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2960, which includes about 2,145 office workers and 911 operators.

“Most of them do have ulterior interests. They have to be benefiting somebody,” he said. “What do you have to hide?”

Unions have raised $106,600 to fight Prop. 487, with the bulk of the money coming from Valley firefighter unions. The opposition campaign reported contributions from firefighters in Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe, Glendale and Peoria. The anti-Prop. 487 campaign also isn’t required to disclose individual donors, though labor leaders said the money comes from membership dues.

Phoenix residents will vote on the measure on November 4.

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One Response to “Anonymous Money Floods Phoenix Pension Vote”

  1. […] weeks to fund both opponents and proponents of the law. But the source of much of that money is shrouded in secrecy, as Pension360 wrote on […]

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