An attorney for Arizona gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey filed a complaint with the Arizona Secretary of State Thursday alleging that the IE group Better Leaders for Arizona violated state law by failing to provide Ducey timely notice of an attack.
The independent expenditure committee began airing an ad on July 8 attacking Ducey for allegedly running dark money ads against his GOP opponents in the race to become Arizona’s next governor, including Christine Jones. The former GoDaddy executive is supported by the BLA.
Ducey attorney Michael Liburdi wrote that the BLA failed to provide the Ducey campaign notice of the ad in the 24-hour window provided by state statute after airtime for the ad was purchased. Liburdi provided a sworn statement by Ducey campaign treasurer Hieu Tran – who’s responsible for collecting the campaign’s mail at the campaign’s listed address and post office box. Tran said she never received a copy of the ad at either mailbox.
The 24-hour window applies only during the last 60 days prior to any election. For the GOP gubernatorial primary, held on August 26, that meant notice for any ads or mailers must have been provided beginning on June 27, according to ARS 16-917.
A trigger report detailing the BLA’s expenses for the ad was first filed on July 1. BLA spent $80,500 in marketing services for the ad.
According to state statute, a civil penalty of three times the cost of the advertisement should be assessed to the BLA, Liburdi wrote.
That’d be a $2.32 million fine for the $775,000 ad.
Liburdi also argued that because BLA failed to send notice of the ad to the Ducey campaign, it did not meet the standard set for independent expenditures – and that since the BLA expressly reported producing the ad to advocate for the election of Jones, the ad is in fact an in-kind contribution.
If so, the contribution would easily be in excess of the $2,000 limit on campaign contributions, Liburdi wrote.
The pro-Jones BLA group has yet to report where the money for the ad came from. Virginia Simpson, a former Paradise Valley mayor and the group’s treasurer, said the source would be reported as required on the next quarterly report.
When reached Thursday afternoon, Simpson said she had yet to see the complaint and declined to comment.
Ducey’s own campaign is the subject of a complaint filed with the Secretary of State by former Mesa mayor Scott Smith, who alleged illegal coordination between Ducey and the Legacy Foundation Action Fund, among other conservative groups, for funding an ad blasting Smith.