Chan: Political campaigns are ongoing in Az; Ways to review donation requests and track your money

Amy B Chan

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Amy B. Chan is the Chair of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

If you received an email, chances are you’ve been asked to get involved to support candidates from school board to senator and support nonprofits of all shapes and sizes.

And while consumers have some protection from fraud and other wrongdoing, a decade of legislative and judicial decisions has turned the campaign’s money-grabbing campaign into the Wild West.

The bipartisan commitment to “free speech” in the form of free-flowing dough has left fundraisers and donors in the driver’s seat, with precious little protection for donors and voters. For example, most nonprofit organizations doing business in Arizona do not have to register with the state before asking for your dollar.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported how unscrupulous online fundraising by politicians and their supporters led many voters to donate far more than they intended. Donors were able to receive $122.7 million in refunds from a presidential campaign, while complaints about such practices accounted for 1-3 percent of consumer complaints to banks.

In this deregulated landscape, donors should consider a few key principles when deciding what and whether to donate.

Make sure you only give what you intend. Many requests will state in advance whether the donation is ongoing, but others will not. If you find a request unclear or it’s difficult to set the terms of your donation, better put your credit card away. Never let yourself be pressured. Don’t give organizations direct access to your bank account—better by credit card or check.

Likewise, many donations from so-called non-profit organizations are not tax-deductible. Still others advertise on behalf of one or more affiliates, one of which is non-deductible while the other is. This is common on similarly named 501(c)(3)s and 501(c)(4)s. Make sure you know who you would like your donation to go to. Donations to 501(c)(3)s are generally tax deductible. Donations to 501(c)(4)s are not.

Finally know how your money is being used. Candidates who run using traditional private fundraising face little scrutiny over how they spend their money unless there is a formal grievance. Therefore, in some cases, reviewing campaign funding reports may be the only way to determine if your donations are being used wisely.

Nonprofit organizations don’t need to provide anywhere near the details that candidates are required to disclose. As a result, it’s harder to ensure your money supports the cause. You can consult a reputable online charitable donation tracker to determine if you are making a wise investment.

Finally, donors should use good security practices with their personal and financial information, do their research, and follow the recommendations of trusted sources like the one below Federal Trade Commission.

Political campaigns are exciting and the impact of small donors is important. But where there is cash, there are often crooks. Make sure you do your research on candidates and organizations before parting with your hard-earned cash. Follow important election dates and get non-partisan information at

Amy B. Chan is the Chair of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The Republican was appointed by then-Senate Democratic Chair Katie Hobbs and is a former head of state elections in the Office of the Secretary of State.

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