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Obscure Phoenix group donates to campaign against Democrat

PHOENIX — An obscure Phoenix-based nonprofit that continued pouring money into campaigns against two ballot propositions this week also funded a mailing opposing a Democrat running for state House.

Americans for Responsible Leadership contributed $10,700 on Tuesday toward the effort opposing Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, who is running for re-election in redrawn District 28, according to a filing with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office

Because of the way the group registered with the IRS, it doesn’t have to disclose where it gets the money it donates.

Meyer said his support of Proposition 204, which would create a 1 cent-per-dollar sales tax to fund education, transportation and human services, may be behind the contribution. His opponents — Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, Rep. Amanda Reeve, R-Phoenix, and Libertarian write-in candidate Jim Iannuzo — all oppose the measure.

“These independent expenditure organizations can pop up; it’s unclear who’s directing them and what their intention is,” Meyer said. “And then as soon as the election’s over, they’re going to be gone and there’s no accountability.”

In all, Americans for Responsible Leadership has contributed $925,000 to the campaign against Proposition 204, including $175,000 this week.

The group has contributed at least $600,000 against Proposition 121, which would replace the current partisan primary system for state and federal offices with one primary advancing the top vote-getters regardless of party. The contributions include another $150,000 this week to Save Our Vote, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, one of the leaders of the Open Government Committee advocating for Proposition 121, criticized Save Our Vote for accepting the anonymous contributions.

“The thing that is astonishing to me is to watch people on their side who say, ‘Not only can we take this secret money, but you don’t have the right to know whether it’s a corrupt bargain or not. The public doesn’t have a right to know who it is,'” he said.

Messages left with Save Our Vote and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the public face of the opposition, weren’t returned by late Thursday afternoon.

Also this week, Americans for Responsible Leadership contributed $800 toward “communications-other” supporting the campaign of Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Vail.

A voicemail left at Antenori’s office went unreturned by Thursday afternoon.

Cronkite News Service has attempted repeatedly and unsuccessfully over two weeks to reach Americans for Responsible Leadership for comment. The group, which lists a Phoenix post office box as its address, has a website devoted to Propositions 121 and 204.

According to filings with the Arizona Corporation Commission, the group’s directors include several Valley businessmen and Kirk Adams, the former state house speaker who lost a GOP primary for Congress in August.

Filings with the Federal Election Commission this week show that Americans for Responsible Leadership has continued funding phone campaigns against President Barack Obama ($1.53 million through Wednesday) and Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah ($85,000 through Wednesday).

Meanwhile, a California judge Wednesday ordered the group to give the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission the sources of $11 million it contributed to the Small Business Action Committee. That group is leading the campaign for one California ballot measure that would ban the use of union dues for political activity and against a measure that would raise the state’s income tax for those with higher incomes.

Americans for Responsible Leadership appealed that ruling Thursday.

If the ruling is upheld, the commission would audit the records to verify that state campaign finance laws were followed. If a violation is found, the group would be required to disclose the records to the public.