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Prop. 204 opponents say they’ve followed proper reporting procedures

State Treasurer Doug Ducey, who is leading the campaign to defeat the 1 cent sales tax initiative, denied today allegations that his committee violated state campaign finance laws and called a complaint against him a “fishing expedition.”

State Treasurer Doug Ducey (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

State Treasurer Doug Ducey, who is leading the campaign to defeat the 1 cent sales tax initiative, denied today allegations that his committee violated state campaign finance laws and called a complaint against him a “fishing expedition.”

Meanwhile, the attorney for No New Taxes, No on Prop. 204 also vowed to show that the committee strictly followed the state’s finance reporting requirements.

The complaint asked Secretary of State Ken Bennett to investigate whether Ducey failed to file a report within 24 hours of receiving contributions of $10,000 or more.

Failure to do so would have been a violation of campaign finance laws.

As part of its preliminary work, Bennett’s office today notified the “no” campaign about the complaint and asked Ducey for a formal reply by October 8.

But Ducey reiterated they know the law and complied with it.

He has been asking people for financial help to defeat Proposition 204, the 1-cent sales tax initiative, and while many have said “yes,” he’s often left wondering how much and when they would actually make the contribution, he said.

“I think you saw part of the answer in our first announcement of $550,000 raised,” he said.

Ducey called supporters of the 1-cent tax “bullies” and described the complaint against him as a “distraction.”

“That’s why they’re putting out these fishing expeditions so we spend time talking about senseless stuff like this, rather than what bad policy Prop. 204 is,” he said.

But Ducey and the “no” campaign have yet to provide proof that they reported within 24 hours of getting big-dollar contributions as required by law.

Upon filing a trigger report, the law requires a campaign committee to identify contributors, the dates of receipt and the amount. Statutes, however, don’t say a committee has to provide proof, such as a copy of checks, to show it complied with the 25-hour notification requirement.

On Friday, Quality Education and Jobs, the group that is behind the proposal to extend a temporary one-cent sales tax, asked Secretary of State Ken Bennett to investigate whether the “no” campaign failed to notify his office within 24 hours of getting contributions of $10,000 or more.

The complaint is based on a Sept. 7 Arizona Capitol Times article, which quoted Ducey as saying raising money to help defeat the 1-cent initiative won’t be a problem.

“We are at a six-figure level out of the gate, and we intend to get to a seven-figure level. And we intend to defeat Proposition 204 and raise what is necessary so that we can properly reform K-12 education and simplify our tax code without hurting our economy,” Ducey had said.

Ducey made the comment in response to a question about how much in “pledges” the opposition campaign had received.

At the time, the campaign had yet to file a finance report, but there were reports that donors committed to give Ducey hundreds of thousands of dollars. The reports were referring to “commitments”—not actual contributions.

When told about the context of the quote, Pedersen said it wasn’t clear that Ducey was referring to pledges.    Pedersen agreed the laws require reporting of actual contributions, not promises of financial help.

Since receiving the initial commitments, the “no” campaign has received contributions amounting to $560,000 from four sources.  Pederson asked for details about that income.

“Still, when did those checks actually arrive? When did they have them in hand? At what date?” Pedersen asked.

The “no” campaign could put an end to the speculation by showing a copy of the checks it received or any proof of when they arrived.  The campaign’s manager, Gretchen Conger, last week refused to comment on when the checks were written, saying only that the campaign is doing things by the book.

“I’m telling you what I’m telling you. If there’s an investigation they’re not going to dig up anything that would prove that we had done anything outside the constraint of the law,” Conger said.

Conger also sent out a media statement that described the complaint against Ducey as “bogus” and said the campaign reported every penny it raised, but the statement didn’t answer the substance of Pedersen’s complaint.

Today, attorney Mike Liburdi, who represents the opposition, also called the complaint a fishing expedition.

Liburdi said Pedersen took a snippet from Ducey’s quote and “kind of like an amateur Sherlock Holmes tries to deduce facts from the quote that aren’t there.”

Liburdi said what the campaign had by Sept. 7 were “commitments.”

He said once the committee received the money, it complied with trigger reporting requirements.  He added the campaign’s official response to Bennett’s office will clarify that it followed campaign finance laws.

When pressed if the official reply would include a copy of the checks, Liburdi said he hasn’t decided yet what documents to submit.

“I will say that when a check was received by the committee, if it was required to be reported… that contribution was reported within 24 hours,” Liburdi said.

Reporter Hank Stephenson contributed to this article. 

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