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Pearce allies: Cut him $250K check for recall costs

Sen. Russell Pearce (Photo by Josh Coddington)

Former Senate President Russell Pearce is facing a wealthy opponent in this year’s elections, but his campaign could receive a six-figure windfall from the state treasury if his Republican allies in the Legislature have their way.

A senior House Republican is circulating a letter calling for the state to reimburse Pearce more than $250,000 for his recall election last year.

Pearce is running again for the Senate this year in the new Legislative District 25. His opponent in the Republican primary is Bob Worsley, the founder of SkyMall.

House Speaker Pro Tem Steve Montenegro said he began circulating the letter after he was approached by several Republicans concerned about a constitutional provision requiring recalled elected officials to be reimbursed.

“There’s a lot of legislators that have raised the issue,” the Litchfield Park Republican said. “Some members have spoken out, and it’s our constitutional duty.”

The Arizona Constitution requires the Legislature to enact laws to govern recalls, “including provision for payment by the public treasury of the reasonable special election campaign expenses of such officer.”

Montenegro said that means lawmakers have a constitutional responsibility to ensure Pearce has his expenses reimbursed.

“If we don’t do it, that sets a precedent,” he said.

Montenegro declined to say how many lawmakers had signed the letter, but said he hoped the money would be included in the budget that legislators are expected to vote on next week.

One supporter of the idea is Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, one of Pearce’s political allies.

“I continue to defend that point of view. I’ve raised it often, and again, it’s constitutionally owed,” he said in an interview earlier this month.

Others aren’t sure Pearce deserves to be reimbursed, since none of the money he spent in the recall election was actually his.

“If it came out of Russell’s personal pocket – you know, he and his wife took out a second mortgage (or) something like that – then the conversation is open. But a refund of campaign contributions from groups across the country, from lobbyists and things like that? Absolutely not,” said Sen. Rich Crandall, a Mesa Republican.

Crandall often butted heads with Pearce when the two served together in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Rather than challenge Pearce this year, Crandall announced that he will move to a neighboring district.

Until 1973, state law included provisions to reimburse recalled officials: maximums of $500 for statewide officers, $200 for legislators and $150 for municipal officers. However, that law was repealed as part of a sweeping overhaul of the state’s initiative, referendum and recall statutes.

In the historic 2011 recall election, Pearce spent $260,302 attempting to retain the Senate seat he had been elected to a year earlier. None of the money was his: Of the $261,000 he raised, more than $180,000 came from individual contributors and another $81,000 came from political action committees.

He was defeated by Republican Jerry Lewis, who spent $84,979. The election was the first time in state history a legislator was successfully recalled.

Although the letter calls for Pearce to receive reimbursement for all of the money he spent last year, it is unclear whether that would be necessary. The only other time the issue has come up is in 1988, when Gov. Evan Mecham was facing recall.

When Mecham requested an advance payment of $1.5 million to fund his campaign, Attorney General Bob Corbin issued an opinion that said the Legislature must enact a provision to make the payment, as one does not exist in statute – and that the amount reimbursed could be whatever lawmakers choose.

“The framers of the Constitution…left the matter of details such as the method, timing and calculation of payment to the discretion of the Legislature,” Corbin wrote.

10 comments

  1. None of the money Pearce raised was his own. He does not deserve 1 penny of taxpayer money, just because the residents of his district decided to recall him – he is not entitled to a quarter million in tax dollars. Mr. Pearce has gotten more than his fare share in junkets, football tickets, 5 star hotel trips for him and his family – this would be one more example of politicians in Arizona lining their own pockets at taxpayer expense.

  2. Two key phrases make this effort irresponsible and wrong:
    1 – “Reasonable … expenses”. The Senator’s campaign spent triple what the winner spent. Not reasonable.
    2 – “of such officer”. The money spent was not his.

  3. So this is what the Tea Party calls fiscal conservatism? LOL. Hypocrites all!

  4. He spent his “gift” money and the public spoke. He shouldn’t get more… He should just go away.

  5. What! Pay Mr. Pearce from Arizona citizens tax payer coffers for losing. Ridiculous! Mr. Montenegro why don’t you and your tea party friends and representatives collect your own money and reimburse him yourself.

  6. Pay Mr Pearce from Arizona citizens tax payer coffers for losing, ridiculous! Mr. Montenegro and friends should collect theirown money and reimburse him themselves.

  7. Campaign financing (with public funds) is unconstitutional.

    Pearce, you took an oath to obey the US Constituion…now forget about stealing
    the $250,000 out of our public treasury.

  8. The outstanding comments in this blog should send a strong message to Pearce’s “friends” in the legislature who have put Arizona’s people, families and children at risk for great harm, have destroyed Arizona’s reputation and have turned Arizona into a “prison state”. SB1070 = turning human beings into $$’s for the private prison corporations and profiteers in the mass incarceration of its people. Shameful. Pearce should NOT be given any money from the state treasury.

  9. PLEASE!!! Doesn’t Pearce ever get his fill from sucking the public teat? Pearce and his cronies need to understand that he lost fair and square, and he did it, NOT with his money, but with contributions from others. Go away, Russell, and take your fellow public-teat suckers with you. The taxpayers owe you NOTHING except contempt.

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