Monday, February 1, 2016

Tax filings shed light on Dark Money: What Noble does ain't noble

Recent tax filings reveal the pervasive influence of dark money on Arizona politics. The one guy who is central to this dark side is Sean Noble who heads American Encore. Who gets paid and who does the paying is a fascinating read.

Here are a few snippets by way of summary from the recent post at the Arizona's Politics blog (AZP).

A new tax filing from Sean Noble's "American Encore" washing machine shows that he did, indeed, run the dark money portion of Doug Ducey's Arizona gubernatorial campaign, funneling money to various groups which - combined with AE's own ads - resulted in more than $3.3M in anonymized spending. The groups that received grants from AE also spent heavily on the Corporation Commission race, supporting Justin Pierce for Secretary of State and on the solar/net metering issue.

Through all of these transactions, Noble's personal companies netted more than $1.8M, and American Encore retained nearly $3.5M going into the quiet 2015 year (ready to spend this year).

The sources of the $5.4M contributed to American Encore in 2013-14 are entirely secret, leading to the use of the term "dark money." Arizona's Politics has previously offered its definition of dark money and scored organizations on its #50ShadesOfDarkMoney spectrum. AE is a solid dark 50 on the scale.

The AZP post has an extensive listing of the flow of money into and out of American Encore during the last few election cycles. Here are a couple of examples.

Governor's race

AE's longtime close collaborator - the 60 Plus Association - also received the most money from AE. In 2014, the grant(s) was/were $1,845,000; the year before, $529,000 was transferred. 60 Plus spent more than $1.6M on Arizona elections that year, and was also involved in the 2013 Corporation Commission battle between APS and solar companies (solar/net metering). $1,332,000 was spent on the Governor's race - mostly ($752,000) before the GOP primary in August.

After the primary battle was over and Ducey came out on top, Noble's American Encore felt it could take a lead in the general election campaign. AE spent $1,437,670. Most of it was "pro-Ducey", as 60 Plus took the negative route, spending $578,000 hammering Democratic nominee Fred DuVal.

Arizona Corporation Commission

... AE gave a total of $1,546,000 to Prosper, Inc. ($1.3M in 2013 and $220K in 2014). Those grants made up nearly all of Prosper's revenues in those years*. The 501(c )(4) was led by former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams. Adams is now Governor Ducey's Chief of Staff. Prosper, Inc. took a lead role on the pro-APS position in the solar/net metering battle of 2013.

And what did APS (Arizona Public Service) do?

Significantly, APS acknowledged to the Arizona Republic's Ryan Randazzo in 2013 that it had provided money to both Prosper, Inc. and 60 Plus - and, potentially other groups - through Sean Noble.

This is the same APS that is trying to stonewall AZ Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns' "requirement" for APS to open its books for inspection by the Commission.

A tangled web funded by dark money

(Ducey, Adams and Noble also teamed up on the best-known dark money sagas of the 2012 election. Ducey chaired the committee opposing the continuation of the state sales tax for education, Noble was the committee's chief political consultant and Adams headed up dark money behemoth Americans for Responsible Leadership, the source for most of the committee's funds. AE's predecessor, the Center to Protect Patient's Rights, and ARL were the key cogs in the Koch brothers' political money operation that year.)

It comes as no surprise that Doozey is attending the Koch Brothers' gathering of the dark side this year.

See the Arizona's Politics post for source citations.

On behalf of Arizona's Politics and other observers of the scams known as Arizona elections, I express our appreciation to the Supreme Court of the United States. Without the Citizen's United decision, we would have far less to write about.

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