A state senator’s frustration with who finances ballot fights could lead to disenfranchising some of the state’s major corporations. And it may be unconstitutional to boot.
Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said she is frustrated with individuals, organizations and companies from other states financing initiative campaigns to change Arizona law and constitutional provisions.
Gray said it boiled over for her this past election with Proposition 204, a measure to ban the use of gestation pens for pregnant pigs and small stalls for calves.
The campaign was victorious — at least in part because of the $1.7 million it had in financing. And the lion’s share of that came from the Humane Society of the United States, an animal advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
So Gray has introduced a measure to make it illegal for any individual or any entity that is not an Arizona resident to contribute to state or local ballot campaigns.
“The problem is outside interests coming in and providing money to influence Arizona’s elections,’’ she said. “Let the people in Arizona fund what they want and vote on what they want, without outside interest.’’
But Gray conceded that by limiting cash for and against ballot measures to only Arizona-based businesses, her measure, SCR1016, would affect companies like Motorola and Intel that have offices in the state but aren’t headquartered here.
Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he is concerned about what Gray is trying to do.
Hamer said he understands Gray’s frustration with the way the initiative process has developed over the years. But he added that Gray’s solution could have unintended consequences.
David Selden, an attorney on the chamber’s board of directors, said those issues are formidable.
The real problem with Gray’s measure, said Selden, is that it could be, in effect, restricting the right of individuals to free speech.
He noted that Gray is proposing is an absolute ban on the free speech rights of only certain individuals, organizations and corporations.
Beyond that, Selden said, such a restriction likely would violate the constitutional prohibitions against states interfering with interstate commerce. He said firms that do business in a state have a legitimate right to have a voice.