Corporate Money and Direct Democracy Measures in Arizona: A Case Study

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Direct democracy was adopted by states to balance the influence and power of corporate interests. Although corporate money has always been a part of American democracy, dark money expenditures have increased significantly since the Citizens United v. FEC case. Corporate money in elections poses a problem because it inconsistent with the tenants of direct democracy. Little published literature addresses the influence of corporate money on direct democracy measures. Using Kingdon’s multiple streams approach as the foundation, the purpose of this case study was to investigate the perceived influence of corporate money on the 2018 ballot initiative and referendum measures in Arizona. The research question was focused on the perceptions of political professionals of the influence of corporate money on direct democracy. Data were collected through using a purposeful sampling that identified 10 political professionals. Semi-structured interviews with participants were supplemented with document review. Data were inductively coded, and then subjected to a thematic analysis procedure, producing 4 thematic elements. The key findings of this study indicated that access to the ballot, using an effective campaign strategy, running an effective paid media campaign, and the outcome all hinged on the money available to fund and support, or oppose, a measure. The implications for social change for the study include informing policy makers of the perceived influence of corporate money on direct democracy so they are equipped to implement policy aligned with the original goal of citizen participation in the state’s constitution.

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