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  • Writer's pictureAndrés Cano

An Unexpected Truth: Dark Money is Fueling One of My Democratic Opponents

Early voting starts this week. Our team thought it was critical we let you know about the nearly $15,000 being spent from outside groups in our district.

It's been more than a week since we alerted you about a shady independent expenditure committee spending its dark money in our district.

As the days have progressed, the need to address this blatant attempt to steal our election has become more pressing.

That's why I'm writing to you directly: early voting starts in 2 days, and I won't sit quiet while Phoenix lobbyists try to buy our district in favor of one candidate in this race, who has said nothing about the dark money coming in.

First, let's start with a quick reminder of what dark money is: it's a way for outside special interest groups, or very wealthy people with an agenda, to transfer unlimited amounts of money into a bank account to influence elections for the candidates it wants to help or defeat.
I'm running to represent Legislative District 3, a safe Democratic district, where the district's two State House seats are up-for-grabs due to term limits.
That means that on August 28th, the top two vote getters in the Democratic primary will be the next State Representatives; we will not have any Republican opponents in November. The two Democrats in this race who have not received, sought, or benefited from dark money are Olivia Cajero Bedford and I.
The third candidate, Alma Hernandez, has benefited from the latest infusion of dark money into our district.

Who's Behind the Dark Money Entering Our Race?

Ok, now that the basics are covered--- let's talk about the shady

dark money group investing in our district. They're calling themselves "Responsible Leadership for Arizona."

Public records show that this Phoenix special interest group has a $500,000 war chest--- yes, you read that right: half a million dollars in dark money-- funded entirely by the Arizona Realtors Association.

The main benefactors of this group are conservative candidates who are running for re-election to the state legislature.

Here's a breakdown of the right-wing candidates the "Responsible Leaders" are backing:

  • $8,904 to an incumbent State Senate candidate who wants to increase vouchers for private schools, and who believes that Arizona spends too much money on public schools. (What?!)

  • $3,335 to a State Representative candidate promising to secure Arizona's border by building a wall, and opposing "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants. (p.s. they used another word to describe the undocumented.)

  • $4,993 to the former Republican Speaker of the House, who previously sued Governor Brewer to stop Medicaid expansion, and who was investigated for falsely submitting inaccurate mileage reimbursements, and spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to renovate his office.

No surprise that dark money is fueling these Arizona conservatives.

An Unexpected Truth: Dark Money is Fueling Democrat Alma Hernandez

Why would a political newcomer, a first-time candidate in the Democratic primary that I am a part of, suddenly be at the top of this dark money group's list?

You read that right: "Democrat" Alma Hernandez has benefited from nearly $15,000 in 11th hour funding from this group. But why, and for what?

Is it to ensure that Phoenix special interest groups can add another "Democrat" from Southern Arizona to its list of reliable votes?

As of July 30th, here's the money that the "Responsible Leaders" have directed toward the committee, "Alma for Arizona."

  • $9,702 to fund a high-gloss two-page mailer that was delivered to mailboxes on Friday, July 27th. The mailer included Ms. Hernandez's life story and two campaign photos that have been shared frequently by her own campaign.

  • $4,500 to fund digital ads promoting Ms. Hernandez, including a stand-alone advertisement, and now even a video promoting her candidacy.

Not only has the messaging and the photos in this dark money's material been identical to what Ms. Hernandez's is using in her campaign: it is clear that they are trying to confuse voters in a desperate attempt to boost her candidacy.

Ms. Cajero Bedford, who has endorsed my journey to the Capitol, is featured in one of the digital ads next to Ms. Hernandez, perhaps in an attempt to try to trick the voters into thinking that they are aligned or part of the same team.

What's more: Senator Cajero Bedford never sought the endorsement of the Realtors, and she was quick to denounce the infusion of dark money into our district last week.

Ms. Cajero Bedford denouncing the infusion of dark money.

As of the posting of this blog-- the afternoon of July 30th-- Ms. Hernandez has not denounced the infusion of dark money into our district. What's more: her family members and supporters have been seen 'liking' and sharing the content from this dark money group.

Why The Realtors Are Entering Our Race

Now-- why in the world would the Arizona Association of Realtors want to enter our race and have Ms. Hernandez, a newcomer who perhaps needed the additional support based on stagnant fundraising, be among its top recipients statewide?

Your guess is as good as ours. Perhaps it was a tap on the shoulder by an incumbent member of the legislature trying to help a family member or friend.

Perhaps Ms. Hernandez assured the Realtors her affirmative vote on their pressing issues when she sought and accepted their endorsement.

What’s more: earlier this month, Ms. Hernandez was beaming in excitement when she touted the endorsement of the anti-RedforEd, anti-clean energy, pro-Doug-Ducey Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in a tweet on July 20th-- which has now been removed, but is still liked by Ms. Hernandez and her sister.

This tweet by Ms. Hernandez praised her support of the "most respected, influential" association-- the pro-Doug Ducey, anti-Red for Ed chamber of commerce in Phoenix. This tweet has since been deleted, but the chamber's endorsement graphic still stands.

We have one theory about the nearly $15,000 these "responsible leaders" have sent Ms. Hernandez's way.
Here it is:

Right now, the Arizona legislature is tasked with an insurmountable need to discuss what additional revenue it can bring in to fund the state's budget.

Put another way: we're looking for ways to pay for our schools, fund our health care, fix our roads, etc.

The problem is that this legislature has given away so much of our money to Arizona's millionaires, billionaires, and corporations, that there's no room for us to add to our coffers without looking for additional revenues.

The Realtors Association is so scared of the legislature looking for more ways to fund our schools and infrastructure that they started the sham-group "Citizens for Fair Tax Policy.”

This is the same group who submitted more than 400,000 signatures this spring to place a constitutional ban on taxing services on this November's ballot. This would mean a potential $5 billion-a-year LOSS to our state's budget!!!!!!!

Put simply: this constitutional ban would further this legislature's LACK OF WILL to discuss more revenue for our schools and infrastructure because now they'd literally be able to say it's against the constitution.

How's that for fiscal responsibility?! This is great news for the conservatives who want to make us as small of a state government as possible, no doubt contributing to the continuation of cuts to senior health care, cuts to our schools, cuts to our infrastructure, and cuts to any programs that help Arizona poorest of the poor.

This is why we're so upset. We're not mad that one of my opponents is receiving support from a sector I didn't—that’s normal.

What's most maddening is that this dark money group, when you look at all of the ways it is trying to hurt our state, is exactly the kind of group DEMOCRATS, in particular those calling themselves PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS, should oppose.

Why would any Democrat be proud to associate themselves with this group?

This is the beginning of a trend on the part of Democrats to cozy up to Phoenix-based chambers of commerce, as can be seen in this House vote earlier this year where a few on "our" side voted with Republicans to exempt digital goods and services from being taxed.

Most Democrats voted against giving away billions in tax revenue from digital goods and services; those who didn't appear to now be getting the same dark money we're questioning in this race.

No surprise: those Democrats who voted with Republicans to potentially gut BILLIONS from our state coffers are some of those now benefiting from this dark money infusion.

What's scarier: they've seen a window of opportunity to add another Democrat In Name Only in Ms. Hernandez.

Did Ms. Hernandez sell her vote to the highest bidder? Hopefully we'll never know....

Legislative District 3 Is NOT For Sale

My intention in sharing this too-lengthy blog is simple:

  • to inform the voters ahead of early voting of the dark money trying to buy our vote

  • to ask Ms. Hernandez to denounce the dark money that's supported her, and to return the $500 she’s received from the Arizona Realtors Association, and,

  • to demand that Ms. Hernandez tell voters where she stands on the ballot initiatives expected to be on the November ballot, including the Realtors initiative.

My guess is that you won't get many answers before early voting begins.

That's why dark money entered our race: to boost their candidate—the Phoenix Realtors candidate, Ms. Hernandez-- at the 11th hour.

This is politics as usual-- it's gross, and it’s immoral.

This is why I'm running: to put an end to incumbent--and wannabe--politicians who are looking out for their own gain, instead of talking about the issues and how they'll help lift OTHERS up.

I'm not for sale, and I won't ever sell our district to Phoenix special interest groups, much less a group of realtors who are prepared to spend half a million dollars against our democracy.

Thanks for reading.

Let's go elect true progressive Democrats to the state legislature. VOTE!

- Andrés

p.s. Help us stand up to dark money by volunteering or donating. We’re days away from getting a seat at the decision-making table.

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