McLaren: NoDDC and Protect our Preserve. How grassroots are they?

The NoDDC and the Protect our Preserve organizations have run a very successful campaign in gathering the necessary signatures to force the issue of the Desert Discovery Center (EDGE) onto the November ballot in the city of Scottsdale.

Alex McLaren

They have generally couched their arguments and message as grassroots outsiders fighting the established forces within the city of Scottsdale. Their initiative would amend the city Charter to prohibit any future construction in the Preserve (with the exception of approved trails and trailheads) and limit the use of Preserve funds.

Any future construction will only occur if approved by Scottsdale voters at an election. The submitted petitions have been verified and the proposition will be on Scottsdale ballot in November.

Another organization that is in the process of getting an initiative on the statewide ballot is the Outlaw Dirty Money group, Their ballot initiative would require that anyone spending more than $10,000 to promote or oppose a candidate or ballot measure would have to disclose everyone who contributed $2,500 or more to the effort. The campaign is being led by Terry Goddard, former mayor of Phoenix and Attorney General of Arizona.

The campaign has submitted their signatures to the Secretary of State and the signatures are currently being verified. The opponents of the measure have filed a legal challenge to the initiative, claiming irregularities with those who gathered the signatures. There is much discussion in the Arizona Republic about how the Koch brothers and connected groups and others are trying to kill the initiative.

I fully support getting this important issue on the statewide ballot in November. First Amendment rights are crucial but equally important is for voters to know where monies are coming from and who is funding candidates and issues.

NoDDC is an Arizona nonprofit corporation and POP is Political Action Committee.

A PAC is required to file disclosure statements of their finances. These documents are accessible on the city of Scottsdale’s website at clerk/campaign finance reports. I would urge readers to access the documents for POP and all the candidates running for city council in November. POP’s second quarter report for 2018 (April 1 to June 30) reveals (page5) that they have received a cumulative amount of $55,000 from Corps. and LLCs. The only information regarding this is an address, and this address is that listed as the Sponsor of POP. No name is given.

There is personal information, names, regarding monetary contributions from individuals who contributed more than $50. This is the case in their filings for other quarters that are on the clerk’s site. The funds (the $55,000 from Corps. and LLCs) could be construed as potential dirty money as there is no indication as to who the monies came from.

The report also reveal that POP paid $39,088 to signature collectors. This amount was from Jan 1 to June 30. POP acknowledges the use of paid signature collectors on their website and it is not unusual for political campaigns to pay folks to collect signatures. The list of signature collectors on the filing numbers 32 people, of that number only four have listed Scottsdale as their address.

Again, this is not uncommon but when you consider how NoDDC and POP proclaim that they are a grassroots group, it seems strange that they need help from outside of Scottsdale.

At $2 per signature they paid for about 19,500 signers, representing approximately 53 percent of the 37,000 signatures submitted.

In my opinion the larger issue of potential “Dirty Money” is paramount. Can we be told who contributed the $55,000? If you are a transparent organization is it not important for folks to know where the monies are coming from.

I attended the June 12 Scottsdale City Council meeting to support the Crossroads East re-zoning case. During the public comment period of the meeting Jason Alexander, who said he represented NoDDC and POP, made comments about their complaint regarding DDC supporters interfering with their signature collectors. He also made comments about the dangers of “Dirty Money” and how it can taint political activity. Again, hopefully we can be told who provided the $55,000.

The Arizona Corporation Commission regulates Corps. As such, one can find out at that NoDDC Inc., a domestic nonprofit is in good standing.

The documents section has the articles of incorporation, but I could not locate any financial disclosure document. POP being a PAC has to file financial information with the City Clerk, but NoDDC is not required to do so. It would help transparency if POP and NoDDC provided links to their financial and other documents.

The NoDDC website has a resources section with a long list of links to all kinds of information.

Maybe there could be a link as to how they handle their expenses and a full disclosure of who is providing all their and POP’s funding. I am not suggesting that any illegal activity has occurred but a little humility by all involved might be appropriate.

As the poet T.S. Eliot said, “humility is endless.”

Editor’s note: Mr. McLaren is a Scottsdale resident and a member of the city’s Bond Oversight Committee

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