Katie Hobbs keeps donations secret. Is this what she calls 'transparency'?

Governor Katie Hobbs is sworn in to office during her ceremonial public inauguration at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Jan. 5, 2023.
Governor Katie Hobbs is sworn in to office during her ceremonial public inauguration at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Jan. 5, 2023.

“I’m running for governor to deliver transparency, accountability and results for Arizona.”

So said then-candidate Katie Hobbs last year – the governor who on Monday refused to allow reporters in the room to witness the transfer of power to a new set of Arizona leaders.

The one who, we just learned, set up a “dark money” operation to solicit donations of up to $250,000 apiece to fund this week's inauguration celebration.

Of course, it’s not unusual for governors to raise funds to celebrate themselves as they take office. An inauguration is a good excuse to shake down lobbyists, special interests and anyone else who might be looking to get in the good graces of the state’s new leader.

Who paid what?Donors were asked to give $250K for Hobbs' events

But a pitch for $250k a pop? Money that then goes to a dark money group – one that doesn’t have to disclose who gave what?

So much for transparency and accountability.

Secret donors are not 'transparency'

The Arizona Republic’s Stacey Barchenger reports that any organization donating $250,000 to the Katie Hobbs Inauguration Fund becomes a “platinum sponsor.” Such august donors got 25 seats at Thursday’s inauguration ceremony, signed programs and a “special gift.”

It’s worth pointing out that Gov. Doug Ducey’s 2019 inauguration was the priciest one we’ve seen. The whole thing cost $272,500. Ducey set a maximum allowable contribution of $25,000 and, like Govs. Jan Brewer and Janet Napolitano before him, disclosed the donations.

Hobbs, meanwhile, asked for ten times what Ducey did – and mum's the word on who gave what.

All we have is a list of more than 100 sponsors, including a who’s who of companies and organizations that are, no doubt, interested in having the governor on speed dial. Among them: insurance companies, labor unions, homebuilders, lobbying firms and regulated utilities.

Hobbs on Thursday told a reporter she didn't see a problem.

"All of the donors are on the website," she told ABC15's Mark Phillips. "I don’t even know why this is an issue. They’re all on the website.”

Indeed, 120 sponsors are listed. But there's a marked difference between a donor who plunks down, say, $100 and one that offers up a quarter of a million dollars.

Andrew Godinich, a spokesman for Hobbs’ inauguration events, declined to tell Barchenger how much was raised to pay for Thursday’s ceremonial swearing in and Saturday’s inauguration ball, or whether Hobbs would disclose the donations.

Hobbs must disclose every penny raised

He also declined to explain how a gubernatorial candidate who pledged transparency squares with a governor who sets up a dark money campaign to fund her celebration.

Possibly … because there is no good explanation?

The governor's spokeswoman, Murphy Hebert, also was mum.

"This is a private event not being paid for with public funds,”’ Hebert told Capitol Media Services' Bob Christie.

It seems obvious that Gov. Hobbs should account for how much was raised for this week’s celebrations and how any leftover funds will be used.

She also needs to disclose the amount of each donation. Really, it’s no different from campaign contributions. Money buys access, and the only check on that is keeping the curtains at the Capitol wide open.

On the campaign trail, Hobbs pledged to “fight to ensure all dark money groups have to disclose every dollar spent on races in Arizona”.

You might want to start, governor, with yourself.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gov. Katie Hobbs promised transparency then formed a dark money group