Republic columnist Laurie Roberts has done a great job bird dogging the fallout from the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce's illegal foray into the 2008 Scottsdale City Council campaigns.
You may recall the chamber's now-infamous Campaign That Wasn't a Campaign. It was August 2008 and the chamber had just launched a TV ad and mailed a four-page color brochure to Scottsdale households, highlighting the four candidates its executive committee had endorsed: then-Mayor Mary Manross, then-Councilwoman Betty Drake, Councilman Ron McCullagh and then-challenger Suzanne Klapp.
The column is excellent and I would encourage you to read the whole thing. I will, however, correct one point. Roberts provides this overly generous assessment of the Chamber's situation...
It was, of course, perfectly acceptable for the chamber executives to endorse whomever they chose and to pull out all the stops to get their favored four elected and take control of the seven-member City Council. This, as long as they disclosed who was supplying the cash for the campaign ads.
Actually, the issue is much more than disclosure. The Chamber is a tax exempt corporation and even after the Citizen's United case, the Chamber would not be allowed to advocate on behalf of candidates. Additionally, some of the contributors are presumed to be corporations--corporate contributions were illegal in 2008. And some of the individuals who contributed may have donated in excess of individual campaign limits. However, we can't know the details of these other violations...because the Chamber refuses to disclose what companies or individuals made the donations and in what amounts.
So no, it was not "perfectly acceptable" for the Chamber to "pull out all the stops to get their favored four elected." It was illegal for the Chamber to advocate on behalf of candidates. The issue is much larger than disclosure.
We will see how it plays out, but a fundamental rule in Public Relations as well as politics is that information that is destined to come out eventually, should be disclosed immediately. Otherwise, there will be dozens more articles about the Chamber refusing to release the information...followed by subpoenas...and then fines.
The Chamber's steadfast refusal to come clean, apologize for screwing up, dismiss those who were responsible and promise not to do it again, means that this cloud will hang over the Chamber for years to come.