Attorneys for Scott Smith filed a complaint with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office and the Citizens Clean Elections Commission today alleging illegal coordination between Doug Ducey’s campaign for governor and an outside group that funded an ad blasting Smith.
The complaint claims that Ducey’s campaign coordinated with corporations like the Legacy Foundation Action Fund and Direct Response Group in an effort to research and produce an ad linking Smith to President Obama by virtue of his leadership role on the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The issue-advocacy ad, which began airing in April, “can have no reasonable meaning other than to advocate the defeat of Mr. Smith,” wrote attorney Kory Langhofer.
Langhofer claims that Gregg Pekau, who was recently hired by the Ducey campaign as director of research, was previously hired by an unnamed nonprofit or private company to conduct research that directly benefited the creation of the ad.
The research was either conducted by Pekau or Copper State Research and Strategy, which Pekau is associated with, the complaint says.
Ducey’s hiring of Pekau effectively internalized the benefit of that research, Langhofer wrote.
And the group that produced the ad, the Legacy Foundation Action Fund, has close ties to the Ducey campaign, Langhofer claims. Ducey’s media consultant, Larry McCarthy, also worked as a contractor for the group.
A spokeswoman for the Ducey campaign told the Yellow Sheet Report in April that McCarthy worked as an independent contractor for both the campaign and the group, but was not involved in the anti-Smith ad.
Another organization, Direct Response Group, was hired by the Legacy Action Fund to work on printing and mailing ads, and the complaint also alleges the group has done work for the Ducey campaign.
“There is substantial evidence showing that both McCarthy and Pekau are or very recently have been agents of both the Ducey campaign and organizations making independent expenditures benefitting the Ducey campaign,” Langhofer wrote.
Ducey campaign spokeswoman Melissa DeLaney dismissed the allegations.
“It’s too bad Mayor Smith is trying to breathe life into his lagging campaign with a cheaply publicity stunt like this,” DeLaney said. “It smacks of desperation and will be quickly dismissed because it’s so transparently motivated and meritless.”
If the allegation of illegal coordination by the Ducey campaign are true, Langhofer also argues that the various third parties who have allegedly made expenses on his behalf would be in violation of Arizona’s campaign finance contribution limits.
Langhofer specifically requested the case be referred to a third party other than the Maricopa County Elections Office, which he argued routinely takes legal advice from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who has endorsed Ducey.