Amy Chan: Her heart is in elections

Amy Chan
Amy Chan

Amy Chan stumbled upon the intricacies of election law nearly two decades ago as a state Senate staffer. She moved up the ranks to become the state’s elections director, one of the top positions in the Secretary of State’s Office under Ken Bennett, and now serves as one of five commissioners on the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

How’d you get into politics?

I started my career at the Capitol in 2001. I was still a baby lawyer. I’d been doing immigration law for about a year-and-a-half, and I had been an intern when I was in undergrad at the state Senate, and always had been interested in going back. There was an opportunity to apply for a research analyst position… I was hired on as the judiciary analyst for the majority research staff in 2001… I was there for about three years. Being assigned to judiciary, that’s kind of how I got my introduction to election law. They had added elections to the Judiciary Committee’s subject matter before I got there. A lot of criminal stuff, a lot of Department of Corrections-type stuff.

Why did election law pique your interest?

Honestly, I think it was just the most positive part of being the Judiciary Committee research analyst. … It’s one of the most fundamental parts of our government. I think it’s one of our most important things to exercise, when you’re allowed to vote. It was just a really positive experience.

Why is that so important to you about elections?

I think we all see the news every day, and it’s always about our elected officials, and those people become the focal point of all of our policies, because those people are the ones who are implementing policies and passing laws. But really, one of the first issues I handled as a research analyst was these two ladies, I think from Fountain Hills, who had inadvertently come together and, without knowing it, made themselves a political committee, and so they had violated the law because they hadn’t followed the paperwork… There was a bill that was intended to help people like that, the little guy who wants to make political speeches. But they’re not thinking about making political speech. They’re talking about, hey, vote yes on this or vote no on this. And if it’s you and your neighbor, that’s a political committee under our law. They had a horrible experience, they felt like they were treated shabbily, they didn’t understand why the law was like that. And so balancing that importance of disclosure while trying to make it so that it’s not so hard for people to speak.

How did you find that balance as the state’s elections director?

One, knowing the election laws is really important when you’re in that job. And when you’re dealing with constituents who may or may not be as aware as you are, just helping them walk through it and understand why this is important. Sometimes people don’t understand the why, or their role in the process, and when you can give them a bigger picture, they understand. But always, [Bennett’s] goal as secretary was to help people understand the process, help people participate. At the time there was a big Tea Party presence, where we had a lot of conspiracy theorists from that corner of our kind of political universe that would come to us oftentimes and say we have all these registered voters at different addresses. They would find addresses where there were four or more registered people or something like that, and they automatically assumed it would be voter fraud. And when you’re the election director and you have that experience, you know that’s not voter fraud. We actually went through and went through a sampling… of the houses they gave us, and just said, look, these are people that live here.

After you left the Secretary of State’s Office in 2013, why’d you come back to serve on the Clean Elections Commission?

It was actually a really tough decision, just because both of my kids were really little. They’re both on the spectrum, the autism spectrum, and so there’s a little even more layering there than just having little kids. But obviously my heart’s with elections, and I had always had a lot of respect for the Clean Elections Commission. I feel like they always did great work with regard to campaign finance investigations. I felt like they had an important role to play, even when my boss kind of was on the other side of the “v” with regard to court cases with them.

You’re a Republican, but you were appointed by a Democrat. And you’ve got a favorable view of Clean Elections, which not all the state’s Republicans share. Does politics shape the commission and your role?

I actually don’t think it plays into my job. I’m grateful for the opportunity. I feel like I’m doing a great job, because I feel like my heart is in it, you know? … I think when you come from a regular life and you’re appointed to this commission and it’s dealing with elections, you may not realize — and I know not everybody shares this opinion — how important a role you play with regard to voter education, clean elections funding. If you’re not in that walk of life, where you’re a candidate or a voter who’s taking advantage of our education programs, you may not realize how much the commission is doing. I was excited to get to take part in it. And you know, I respect (Secretary of State) Katie Hobbs very much. She’s the one who appointed me. But I’m obviously very independent minded.

What’s the most important goal for the commission to achieve heading into the next election year in 2020?

From my perspective as a Clean Elections commissioner, I just think increasing transparency of political campaign spending, making sure that people, voters, are getting to vote. It was exciting in 2018 seeing the increase in the number of people that participated in the elections. I mean, especially in an off-year that’s huge. I’d like to think that Clean Elections played a small role in that at least, because Gina Roberts is our voter education person. She is, with Tom [Collins’] blessing and support, she has really just made it such a huge strong program for us, for the state. She came from the Secretary of State’s Office with relationships with all the counties and the community outreach people, too. To me, those are the biggest issues: Voter education, the campaign finance transparency and just making sure the Clean Elections is just as vibrant as it can be with regard to how we’re exercising our powers based on the Constitution and the statutes.

Bennett lacks campaign funds, criticizes Ducey in Clean Elections forum

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (AP Photo/The Arizona Daily Sun, Jake Bacon)
Ken Bennett (AP Photo/The Arizona Daily Sun, Jake Bacon)

Ken Bennett compared his campaign against Gov. Doug Ducey to Donald Trump taking on the GOP establishment during the 2016 presidential race.

Bennett, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, likened himself to Trump and lashed out at Ducey on education, taxes and the governor’s record in a televised question-and-answer session August 1 on Arizona PBS.

In the half hour interview with “Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons, the former secretary of state and Arizona Senate president dismissed the idea that he was ever an establishment Republican.

Bennett, who used to be seen as a folksy and well-liked character within the Republican Party, has taken a hard-right turn as he takes on Ducey in the August 28 primary.

He copied a tactic out of Trump’s playbook as Arizona GOP leaders have urged Bennett to exit the race.

“President Trump beat the Republican establishment and I’m offering myself as a similar option,” he said.

In the interview, Bennett called out his opponent for not cutting income taxes — a pledge Ducey made on the campaign trail in 2014. He also criticized Ducey for raising taxes this year.

Specifically, Bennett was talking about a new car registration fee that will cost all Arizona motorists approximately $18 per year. Some legislative Republicans also cried foul when it passed the Legislature, labeling it a tax. Ducey has disputed claims that the new, annual fee is a tax.

Bennett — who came in fourth in the six-way gubernatorial primary that Ducey won in 2014 — cited the new fee as one of the accounting “tricks and gimmicks” Ducey used to pay for lofty teacher pay hikes spread out over the next few years.

Ducey’s plan for teacher pay raises is what incited Bennett to jump into the gubernatorial race.

In the televised interview, Bennett said Ducey “caved” to the “Red for Ed” movement by offering teachers pay bumps after saying the state could not afford such hefty raises for months prior.

“On April 12, he was saying one thing and on April 14, all of a sudden he says something totally different,” Bennett said. “My question was: ‘How are we going to pay for it?’”

Bennett also doubled down on false statements that Ducey told Sen. John McCain to oppose the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, which caused the ailing senator to cast a decisive vote against the bill.

He also expressed no remorse for tweeting that Ducey should not appoint Cindy McCain to her husband’s U.S. Senate seat should he vacate the position, which rankled Republicans across the state. Bennett’s tweet was based off unverified reports.

“I think the people of Arizona want transparency from our governor as to who’s on his list,” he said.

Bennett appeared on Arizona PBS as part of a Clean Elections Commission forum. What was initially billed as a debate turned into a question-and-answer session between Bennett and Simons, the host, when Ducey declined to participate.

Candidates seeking public financing for their campaigns are required to participate in the televised Clean Elections forums. With less than a month until the primary election, Bennett still has not turned in enough certified $5 contributions to qualify for $839,704 in public financing he could use in his primary race.

Bennett’s campaign must provide a status report on his contributions to Clean Elections by August 6.

Bennett takes another shot at recouping money for failed gubernatorial bid

Ken Bennett (Photo by Gary Grado)
Ken Bennett (Photo by Gary Grado)

Gubernatorial hopeful Ken Bennett is making one last legal effort to get the public to reimburse him for the expenses of his failed campaign.

Bennett is asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders to order state and county election officials to allow him to prove that the signatures they disqualified on his forms for public financing actually are legitimate. That would involve things like bringing in affidavits from the people involved.

But there’s a big problem with what Bennett wants. Tom Collins, the executive director of the Citizens Clean Election Commission, said even if Bennett can get such a court order and prove now he really had enough valid donations, there is no legal procedure to give him the money.

The fight is over $54,800. That’s the amount of money Bennett loaned to his ill-fated bid to defeat incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

Arizona law allow candidates for statewide and legislative office to get public dollars if they refuse to take private money and show sufficient support by gathering a set number of $5 donations.

Bennett had hoped to qualify for $839,704 in public financing for his run. But he failed to get the necessary 4,000 contributions by the deadline.

He complained that he came up short at least in part because the Secretary of State’s Office shut down the online portal for donations several hours early. And he managed to convince Judge Connie Contes to order the portal reopened for several hours.

Even with that, a legally required check of signatures on the paper forms submitted showed he still came up 120 short.

In the latest lawsuit he contends county officials erred and that at least 125 of the signatures they voided are valid. So now he wants Sanders to “analyze new evidence” that these were valid and issue an order that he be declared to have qualified for public funding.

There is no way for Bennett to get the entire $839,704, as the election is over. But he contends he’s entitled to use part of that to pay himself back.

Collins said even if Bennett wins this new lawsuit, it probably does not matter. Put simply, Collins said, it’s just too late.

He pointed out that Bennett lost his status as a “clean” candidate when he failed to submit qualifying donations by the deadline. That required Collins to reclassify him as a “traditional” candidate who takes private donations.

And there’s something else.

The lawsuit does not name the commission as a defendant. Collins said even if Sanders grants his request and even if the judge determines Bennett had enough qualifying signatures, none of that can force the commission to give him any money.

Candidates find pros and cons of digging into own pocket

John Fillmore
John Fillmore

Former Rep. John Fillmore said when he first ran for the state Legislature 10 years ago, he was going to personally fund his campaign. A conversation with a sitting lawmaker changed his mind.

Fillmore said he asked the representative how she planned to vote on a bill and she said she wasn’t sure yet.

“‘I haven’t talked to the lobbyist yet,’” Fillmore said she told him. Her response was an eye opener.

Fillmore, a one-term lawmaker from Apache Junction who served from 2011-12, said the conversation prompted him to instead run as a Clean Elections candidate to show voters that lobbyists and political action committees couldn’t buy his vote.

But after four consecutive elections running as a publicly-funded candidate, Fillmore opted to self-fund his campaign this year. He said despite still being a firm believer in the Clean Elections process, he hopes that he can find success by spending money out of his own pocket as he runs for the open House seat in Legislative District 16.

“I had always run ‘Clean’ and sometimes it was to my detriment because my opponents had twice the money I had. This year, there is an open seat, and I figured it’s the last time I’m going to run, so I put in my own money because I believe in what I’m doing,” he said.

Fillmore loaned his campaign $34,322 shortly after launching his campaign in August 2017 and hasn’t raised any money since. It’s roughly $10,000 more than what he would have received from the Clean Elections Commission, and he said he has been able to better promote himself this year with the extra cash.

Fillmore is one of nearly two dozen Legislative candidates who have poured substantial amounts of their own money into their campaigns.

While self-funders haven’t been very successful at the state and federal level in Arizona, the strategy has paid off for candidates aiming for lower-level offices, such as the Legislature or a city council.

Several past and current members of the Legislature have invested heavily in their own races.

Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Mesa) (Photo by Rachel Leingang/ Arizona Capitol Times)
Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Mesa) (Photo by Rachel Leingang/ Arizona Capitol Times)

As a first-time candidate in 2012, Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, loaned his campaign $252,167 and contributed an additiobnal $5,345. During his bid for re-election in 2014, Worsley loaned his campaign $452,000, nearly 70 percent of the $657,031 he brought in that election cycle.

Former Senate President Steve Pierce, of Prescott, also propelled himself to the state Legislature by leaning on his big checkbook. He loaned his campaign $220,000 in 2008.

But while some may argue that self-funded candidates are trying to buy their way into the Legislature, or scare off the competition, history has proven that money isn’t everything.

Two-time candidate Frank Schmuck, who is seeking election to the Senate in Legislative District 18, contributed $134,338 to his 2016 campaign, the bulk of his war chest. Though he managed to make it out of the primary, he lost to Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, by 3,027 votes in the general election.

This year, he has loaned his campaign $55,000 and contributed an additional $51,171 in his attempt to unseat Bowie.

Political consultant Chuck Coughlin said he generally advises clients against fully self-funding their campaign.

Coughlin said while self-funding a campaign is a sign of confidence, it can come off as tawdry to voters. And though no one likes to ask people for money, he said fundraising forces candidates to speak with constituents and industry groups.

“It’s nice to have your own money, but then it also needs to be augmented with candidates asking others to invest in them,” Coughlin said. “As a candidate you have to ask people for their vote and if you get them to write you a check you’re probably going to get their vote. Routine fundraising has never proven to me as being a bad thing for a candidate.”

That’s a strategy Marilyn Wiles, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Legislative District 10, said she hopes pays off.

Wiles loaned her campaign $21,300 and contributed an additional $1,322. She said she has also received several contributions from voters and is actively fundraising leading up to the general election. Wiles doesn’t have a primary opponent.

She said her decision to invest her own money into her campaign shows voters that she is committed to them – she said she sees it as an investment in the voters in southern Arizona.

“I put up a substantial amount of cash because I believe the taxpayers here in LD10 deserve more than what they’re getting and I am committed to getting them what they deserve,” she said. “I am getting donations and would appreciate more but I took money from my own personal funds because I am so committed to them.”

Clean Elections Commission on verge of losing quorum

Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission is months away from a crisis.

Two of the five appointed commissioners are overstaying their welcome. Their 5-year terms each expired in the past two years. Come January 2020, a third commissioner’s term will also expire.

The Clean Elections Act, approved by voters in 1998, states that commissioners “shall serve no more than one term” and are “not eligible for reappointment.”

Mark Kimble
Mark Kimble

And while there’s precedent elsewhere in state law to allow commissioners to continue to serve, they’d prefer if Gov. Doug Ducey takes his lawful turn to choose a new appointee.

By law, appointments to the Citizen Clean Elections Commission, or CCEC, alternate between the governor and the highest ranking elected official of the opposite political party. The last appointment was made by Katie Hobbs, then the Senate minority leader at a time when no Democrats served in statewide office.

That made her the highest-ranking Democrat in 2017, a title she can again claim now that she’s been elected secretary of state.

But according to statute, Hobbs can’t make another appointment until after Ducey. And the governor has gone without picking a new commissioner for more than 16 months, since Commissioner Steve Titla’s term expired on January 31, 2018.

The Arizona chapter of the League of Women Voters sent a letter to the governor in early May, urging him to help restore the commission to a full roster of active commissioners.

“The League believes that the Commission furthers several of our primary goals: encouraging informed citizen participation in the political process, improving the integrity of the voting process, and diminishing the influence of special interest money in the election process,” the League wrote. “However, in order to conduct any business, the Commission requires a quorum of at least three members be present.”

Put another way, it’s bad enough that Titla and fellow Commissioner Damien Meyer, whose term expired on January 31, remain in a holdover capacity.

Damien Meyer
Damien Meyer

It’ll get even worse once Commissioner Mark Kimble’s term expires next January 31.

“Members who have faithfully fulfilled their duties to the Commission and the state of [Arizona] have tried to continue to attend as many meetings as they can in order to ensure that the Commission has a quorum and can thus function properly,” the League wrote. “The League believes that it is imperative on the Governor, as the highest ranking officer of the Republican Party, to fulfill his lawful duty to the Commission.”

After addressing the League’s letter at its May 30 meeting, commissioners weighed their own options to urge Ducey to act.

CCEC Executive Director Tom Collins noted that, come January 2020, the issue becomes “really ripe” once Kimble’s term expires.

“We’re really six months away from a potential crisis on this issue,” Collins said.

Collins suggested the commissioners could craft a letter to send to the Ducey administration, an effort Commissioner Amy Chan said won’t go far enough.

Chan said Ducey’s failure to appoint a new commission may be the result of his political leanings.

“Frankly, the problem is we have a governor who doesn’t like Clean Elections,” Chan said on May 30. “So it’s like his philosophy or policy disagreement is impacting the legitimacy of this independent, non-partisan election body, and that really is what the crux of the matter is. And how do we get him to move on that.”

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said there’s a simpler explanation for why the governor hasn’t made an appointment in over a year.

“The governor takes every appointment he makes very seriously, and our priority is to identify a qualified candidate to fill this vacancy. We have not received any applications for this vacancy that meet the statutory resident and partisan qualifications,” Ptak wrote in a statement.

The Governor’s Office has received four applications for the commission vacancies since January 2017, and none met the qualifications required of a potential commissioner, Ptak said.

Vacancies to any board or commission, like CCEC, are posted on the governor’s website, and Ptak added that Ducey’s staff meets regularly with individuals and organizations to encourage applicants to apply for those vacancies.

“We have and will continue communicating with the Commission’s executive director throughout this
process and we hope to make an appointment soon,” Ptak stated.

Steve Titla
Steve Titla

In the meantime, commissioners like Titla and Meyer may continue to serve under a state law that allows officers to “continue to discharge the duties of the office, although the term has expired, until a successor has qualified.”

And commissioners settled on requesting a meeting between Kimble, their chairman, and Ducey Chief of Staff Daniel Scarpinato to stress the urgent need for new appointees.

If Ducey follows through, he’s barred by law from appointing a Republican. That’s because no more than two appointees to the commission may be a member of any one political party. Since two of the three commissioners whose terms are still active are Republicans, the governor may either choose a Democrat or an independent.

That’s due in part to a shrewd decision by Hobbs, who in 2017 tapped Chan, a Republican who once served as elections director under former Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

Hobbs had the option to choose an independent at the time. But by appointing Chan, Hobbs effectively blocked Ducey from appointing a member of his own political party. The two commissioners whose terms have expired, Titla and Meyer, are both Democrats.

Chan and Commissioner Galen Paten are Republicans, while Kimble, whose term expires next year, is an independent.

Since there are two vacancies, Hobbs will be able to make her own appointment immediately after Ducey acts.

Clean Elections to sue over ballot measure description


The Citizens Clean Elections Commission voted unanimously to sue the state over language describing a ballot measure to take away some of the commission’s authority.

Arizona’s Legislative Council on Thursday approved language that will appear in voter pamphlets describing a measure, pushed by Republican lawmakers, to restrict the commission’s authority to set campaign finance rules for nonparticipating candidates and independent expenditures.

Tom Collins, executive director of the commission, said that language “unfairly and inaccurately” describes what the commission is, and what the GOP-backed ballot measure seeks to change about the commission’s functions.

“The summary is an inaccurate description of what they’re being asked to vote on. And the commissioners take on a duty to uphold the integrity of the electoral process, and Clean Elections is the voter education agency for the state,” Collins said.

HCR 2007 would also require the commission to get approval from the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council – a six-member council appointed by the governor – to enact new campaign finance rules. Collins said the language approved for voter pamphlets doesn’t explain that the commission is a nonpartisan body, and that if voters approve the ballot measure, the commission will then be subject to the whims of a partisan body appointed by the governor.

It’s a failure of omission that leaves voters without vital information to understand the changes the ballot measure proposes, Collins said.

“There is a complete change in law in terms of the nonpartisan commission’s independence versus the partisan GRRC’s non independence,” Collins said.

The measure would also ban any sort of payment to not just a political party, but to any nonprofit that can influence elections.

In a letter sent to the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Collins lobbied for the changes the commission now plans to sue over. He said there’s precedent for requiring the ballot language to include the necessary context of what the law currently requires versus what a ballot measure will change.

Legislative Council provided that context for another ballot measure on Thursday, when it adopted detailed language describing a citizen referendum on a law to expand access to school vouchers, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, in Arizona.

“There’s quite a bit of description of how the ESA (bill) changes current law, and for some reason … in the Clean Elections Description, it’s 13 lines long and contains no similar description of the state of the law,” Collins said.

The Citizen Clean Elections Commission in May decided against suing to keep HCR 2007 off the ballot, though one of its members, along with a former commissioner, are suing as individuals.

Collins said that the commission doesn’t oppose posing the question to voters. It simply wants to ensure voters know what they’re voting on.

“This is exactly the kind of thing I think voters expected the Clean Elections Commission to do when they passed it 20 years ago,” he said.

Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.

Congratulations to The Breakdown Breakouts!


Our inaugural Breakouts are among the sharpest political minds in Arizona. They work in and outside of government, manage their own businesses and provide counsel to some of the most important entities in the state.

 They routinely take on complex subjects and tackle the most challenging issues. They have established their credentials through hard work, persistence and that independent spirit that defines the American southwest. And they have proven that age, truly, is no barrier to success.

 Please join us in celebrating their accomplishments on November 27.

 Editor’s note: The Arizona Capitol Times newsroom played no role in the selection process.  

 Jessie Armendt, Senior Associate, Compass Strategies

Jimmy Arwood, Democratic strategist

Paul Bentz, Pollster, HighGround Public Affairs

Meghaen Dell’Artino, Owner, Public Policy Partners

Joe DeMenna, Partner, DeMenna Public Affairs

Ryan DeMenna, Partner, DeMenna Public Affairs

Yesenia Dhott, Government Relations Manager, City of Phoenix

Jeff Gray, Legislative Affairs Manager, Central Arizona Project

Kory Langhofer, Managing Partner, Statecraft

Stephanie Parra, Government Relations Director, Arizona Education Association

Dawn Penich-Thacker, Communications Director, Save Our Schools Arizona

Sam Richard, Creosote Partners

Gina Roberts, Voter Education Director, Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission

Daniel Ruiz, Senior Advisor for Communications & Policy Strategy, Arizona Governor’s Office

Annie Vogt, Associate Director, Veridus

Cheyenne Walsh, Partner, Isaacson & Walsh

Court reinstates ‘dark money’ contributions


The state Court of Appeals has reinstated a 2017 law that opens the door to “dark money” contributions to political races.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday the judges said the Republican-controlled legislature was within its rights to decide that any group the Internal Revenue Service has classified as non-profit does not have to disclose its donors, even if it uses the money to finance independent expenditures to elect or defeat candidates.

That change overturned the ability of the voter-created Citizens Clean Elections Commission to determine whether the group was really a charity or only a thinly disguised political action committee. PACs have to disclose donors.

Tuesday’s ruling also allows political parties to spend unlimited dollars on behalf of their candidates without disclosure. And it also means that individuals and special interests can pay the legal fees of candidates without it counting against the legal limit of how much financial help they can provide.

But there was a key victory in the ruling for the Arizona Advocacy Network, which had challenged the law.

The appellate judges said lawmakers had no right to limit Clean Elections Commission to policing only independent expenditures made on behalf of candidates who are accepting public financing. This preserves the right of the five-member commission to require disclosure of all money spent on all candidates — publicly financed or not — even if they can no longer force reporting of the original source of those dollars.

David Gass
David Gass

Appellate Judge David Gass, a Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Democrat, writing for the unanimous appellate court, said voters were well within their authority in giving that broad right to the commission to police independent expenditures. And having been approved by voters, lawmakers were powerless to change it.

Tuesday’s ruling is a reversal of fate for the challengers who had succeeded in convincing a trial judge to void the entire 2017 law. Attorney Jim Barton who represents them said no decision has been made on whether to appeal.

The commission was created by voters in 1998 as part of what proponents said was a bid to limit the influence of money on politics.

It allows — but does not require — candidates for statewide and legislative office to qualify for public financing if they agree not to take outside cash. The amount is determined by the office sought.

It also empowers the commission to enforce campaign finance laws.

When business groups which have traditionally funded many candidates could not kill it at the ballot box they sued to have it voided. Most of the provisions were upheld in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The latest fight stems from efforts in 2017 by then-Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, to curb both the commission’s powers and campaign finance restrictions.

He argued that existing laws requiring disclosure of donors interfered with the rights of free speech and people to participate in the political process with their dollars without giving up their right or privacy. And his measure paid special attention to the ability of people to contribute anonymously for independent expenditures, money spent directly by organizations in commercials, direct mailers or other campaign materials urging voters to support or defeat specific candidates

Mesnard’s measure was approved on a largely party-line vote and signed into law by Ducey.

Key is the carve-out from disclosure requirements for nonprofits.

J.D. Mesnard
J.D. Mesnard

There always has been an exception for nonprofits to avoid disclosing donors.

But the commission has taken the position that designation by the IRS, by itself, is insufficient to prove an organization is a true charity. Instead, it adopted rules to allow it to demand records from a group to determine whether it actually is organized for the primary purpose of influencing an election.

The 2017 law — and now, the appellate court ruling — overturns all that. Now, once the IRS grants nonprofit status, the commission is powerless to investigate the validity of the charity, and the names of donors are kept secret.

What now also is legal is the ability of political parties to spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of their candidates without disclosure.

In the 2018 election, for example, the Arizona Republican Party ran TV commercials on behalf of the re-election efforts of Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich. But the actual amount they spent on behalf of each was never reported because of the exemption created in the 2017 law.

This became particularly significant because Ducey raised money not only directly for his own campaign but also took corporate and large-dollar contributions — money he could not legally accept personally — and funneled it into a separate Ducey Victory Fund committee. And any dollars Ducey could not keep himself then were given to the Arizona Republican Party which, in turn, was free to use it to help the governor’s re-election, all without detailing how much was spent on his behalf.

This has not just been a practice of one party.

The Arizona Democratic Party also put $3.3 million into the successful effort to elect Katie Hobbs as secretary of state.

But that figure became public not through campaign finance laws. It was only because iVote, which promotes the election of Democrat secretaries of state, put out a press release detailing the expenditure.



Court rules Clean Elections measure to be on November ballot

Clean Elections Commission logo620

Arizona voters who want to preclude publicly funded candidates from buying services from political parties also will have to vote for new limits on the powers of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to get that change.

And vice versa.

In an extensive ruling Monday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders rejected arguments by supporters of the commission that it’s illegal to put voters in the position where they have to support both changes just to get the one they want — and even if they don’t like the other one.

Sanders acknowledged that the Arizona Constitution does have a requirement for changes in that document to be presented to voters as separate proposals. But the judge noted that the two changes the Republican-controlled Legislature wants voters to approve are statutory, not constitutional.

“If the framers of the Arizona Constitution had intended that statutory amendments submitted by either initiative or referendum be subjected to a separate amendment restriction, they could have done so,” she wrote. “They did not.”

Attorney Danny Adelman who represents Louis Hoffman and Amy Chan, two former members of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said he will ask the Arizona Supreme Court to intercede.

Time is of the essence as counties will begin printing up the bottom half of ballots — the part with measures for voters to approve or reject — by the end of August. That means there needs to be a final ruling before then on whether the issue will go to voters.

The proposal put on the ballot by lawmakers seeks to make two changes in the law which allows but does not require candidates for statewide and legislative office to get public dollars if they avoid special interest donations. Funding comes largely from a surcharge on civil, criminal and traffic fines.

One provision would prohibit those candidates from purchasing services like advertising from political parties or outside groups that have their own independent ability to influence elections.

The commission does allow such spending, though with restrictions on its use and requirements for accounting. But Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, said it’s not proper to funnel public dollars into those organizations.

More sweeping is the other provision which would subject any rules enacted by the commission to review — and potential veto — by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council. That council is made up of six appointees of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Adelman argued to Sanders that giving political appointees that veto power would undermine the independence of what is supposed to be a bipartisan commission.

In issuing her eight-page ruling, Sanders pointed out that she is not deciding on the merits of the ballot measure.

“That is for the voters to decide,” she wrote. What is within her authority, Sanders said, is whether placing the two issues on the ballot as a take-it-or-leave-it proposal violates the Arizona Constitution.

“The court finds that it does not,” Sanders said.

Adelman said that the judge, in looking only at what can be on the ballot, is missing a key point.

He noted the Arizona Constitution has a separate provision which says that “every act shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.” That section governs what the Legislature itself can do.

What that means, Adelman argued, is that the Legislature itself acted improperly in voting to put the measure — and its two parts — on the ballot in the first place.

“When they passed this, it was a legislative act,” he told Capitol Media Services.

“Every member of the Legislature had to vote on that,” Adelman continued. “The single-subject rule protects them from having to cast an all-or-nothing vote on this.”

Sanders, however, pointed out that the Arizona Supreme Court has said that the single-subject rule does not apply when voters propose their own laws through the initiative process.

She conceded that there is no actual court ruling on whether that exemption applies to measures referred to voters by the Legislature itself. But the judge said she believes they, too, do not have to comply with the single-subject rule.

A separate case playing out in another Maricopa County courtroom concerns what voters will be told about the measure — assuming it remains on the ballot.

That issue is whether the Legislative Council, a committee of lawmakers dominated by Republicans, has complied with a legal requirement to craft an “impartial” description of what the ballot measure would do if approved. That description will appear in pamphlets mailed to the homes of the 3.6 million registered voters.

The lawsuit, filed by the full Citizens Clean Elections Commission, contends the council failed to include relevant information when it approved a description of changes the Republican-controlled Legislature wants voters to approve in how the commission operates. And some of what the council did put in the description, he said, is flat wrong.

Tom Collins, the commission’s executive director, said that means voters, who have to ratify the changes approved by lawmakers, are being given an inaccurate picture of what the measure would do.

No date has been set for that hearing.

Daniel Ruiz: Election expert’s climb to the 9th Floor


Daniel Ruiz has spent his entire adult life working for the government in some shape or form. Since his first job at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office in 2002, the West Valley native has moved his way up to the Executive Tower, where he was recently promoted to interim spokesman while Daniel Scarpinato takes a leave of absence to work on Gov. Doug Ducey’s re-election campaign.

Cap Times Q&AHow’d you get your start working for the government?

My very first job out of high school was at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Elections Department, stocking ballots in the warehouse. At that time they had a facility on 16th and University… it was a summer job. I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do next, and what I was going to major in — I thought it was going to be journalism. And I just had this great opportunity to be a temporary employee there, and I just loved it. It was a really good team. A lot of camaraderie. A lot of long hours. And so it sort of changed the path for me. I thought, maybe public administration is the better route for me to go, and I kinda stuck with it. I did that for four years, then spent most of my 20s at Clean Elections.

What’d you love about the recorder’s office?

I’d always thought of Election Day as the start and stop of the political process, in a lot of ways. You don’t really think of the work that goes on behind the scenes. And so getting to see all the nitty gritty of the election administration world was really compelling, but also learning from people like former recorder Helen Purcell. She’d been in office since 1987. She really ushered in a lot of change and had a lot of really good stories to tell. And her elections director was Karen Osborne, who of course was the assistant secretary of state when Rose Mofford was secretary of state, and continued to be a close personal adviser throughout Governor Mofford’s life. And they would just have these great stories, and there were really no boundaries. These people at the top were working with the temporary employees to make sure that we got all the ballots that we received in the mail scanned in so they could be forwarded for tabulation. And it just felt like home. It felt like a really good place that I wanted to stay at. So I applied for a job, a permanent position, which was a data entry position in voter registration, and sort of worked my way up to be a campaign finance adviser.

When did you make the switch to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission?

There was a campaign finance manager position open at Clean Elections, and I really didn’t know what Clean Elections did at the time. Campaign finance was something that I was doing at Helen’s office, and I thought it was something that was worth a shot. And I ended up spending, as I said, most of my 20s there, from the time I was 22 to almost 30.”

Clean Elections doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation among Republicans at the Capitol.

I remember when I first told folks I was considering going to Clean Elections, they all cautioned me and told me that it wasn’t a good place to go. But I decided to take the risk. I did enjoy it, and I always joked that I had every job in that office because I did. I was the campaign finance manager, sort of overseeing the candidate funding and disbursement, budgeting for campaign finance funding, and then overseeing enforcement for candidates who weren’t abiding by the Clean Elections Act. And ultimately leading an investigation that got one legislator (Doug Quelland) removed from office.

When did you get more into the communications side of the job?

I remember having to explain one of these campaign finance cases to the commission. (Former Clean Elections Executive Director) Todd Lang at the time gave me that task, and he told me that I had a really good way of framing a complex issue in an easy to understand way, and said I should consider going into a communications field, which was sort of appealing to me because of my interest in journalism that dated back to high school. And there was an opportunity to be the voter education manager, which is media relations and then crafting really a statewide voter education campaign, marketing and things like that. So it was a really cool opportunity that I took advantage of, and I served as deputy director and even as executive director when we were trying to find an attorney to replace Todd Lang in Tom Collins.

Did that help prepare you for your communications gig with the governor?

I was deputy director at Clean Elections, and that was probably the best experience that I’ve had. It really prepared me for this job even, because you’re organizing and managing the operations of one of the most scrutinized and hotly contested agencies. Constant fishbowl. And you really need to make sure that every decision you make is strategic. That really helped frame the way I deal with things now.

You briefly went back to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, but how’d you get pulled up to the Executive Tower in 2015?

I thought I was going to be (in Maricopa County) for a while, and then I got a call from Daniel Scarpinato, who heard my name from Mike Liburdi. He at one point sued Clean Elections when I was there, but we always had a positive relationship, and we worked with each other throughout my election experience… They really presented this picture of a really, I think, transformative office, one that was difficult to say no to.

What’s it like to blend communications and policy? Is it a valuable mix?

I think the best part of having a communication lens when you’re dealing with operational issues and policy issues is you’re going to be thinking through how is the public going to perceive this, which is really why we’re here. How are the people that hired us to do these jobs going to react? Is this going to benefit them? Should we be doing it differently? Is there a process that we can improve? And if you’re making decisions with that perspective in mind, I think you’re going to really satisfy your responsibility to serve the public.

Ducey silent on knowledge of campaign contribution

Gov. Doug Ducey waves to supporters at a Make America Great Again campaign rally for President Trump in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018. Ducey has been a leading fundraiser in the 2018 election. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Gov. Doug Ducey waves to supporters at a Make America Great Again campaign rally for President Trump in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018. Ducey has been a leading fundraiser in the 2018 election. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Gov. Doug Ducey won’t say whether he knows who is behind the single largest contribution to his re-election campaign.

And he won’t even say if he asked who is actually funding Blue Magnolia, the limited liability company that had been incorporated in Delaware just two weeks before it put $500,000 into the Ducey Victory Fund.

“I’m going to leave this to the lawyers that are working through this,” the governor said in response to questions by Capitol Media Services.

But J.P. Twist, who managed Ducey’s re=election effort, has deflected questions about the donation in the wake of a complaint filed with the Secretary of State’s Office by the Campaign Legal Center. That organization alleges that the newly formed Blue Magnolia was simply a front for someone else — in this case they believe Larry Van Tuyl, manager of the Berkshire Hathaway Automotive Group which owns more than two dozen dealerships in Arizona.

The complaint itself is against Blue Magnolia and Van Tuyl. Brendan Fischer, director of the CLC’s federal reform program, said he has no evidence that Ducey or his campaign team were aware of who was actually behind the money from Blue Magnolia which, as a two-week-old company, had no assets to make that size of a contribution.

But Fischer told Capitol Media Services it “would be prudent to inquire further about the source of a contribution from a mysterious LLC with no public footprint.”

“Our campaign followed the law,” the governor said. “If there’s an issue through this contribution it’ll be figured out through this process.”

Ducey, however, would not answer questions about whether he even asked who put that much money into his campaign.

The question of what the governor knew is crucial: If Ducey was aware that Blue Magnolia was simply laundering campaign contributions from someone else he would be guilty of a felony.

Van Tuyl, who owned the Arizona dealerships before selling them to Berkshire Hathaway in 2014, is no stranger to Ducey or Republican politics.

Just days before the general election this year he gave $250,000 of his own to the Ducey Victory Fund. That is a separate campaign committee set up by the governor and his supporters which can take not only donations above the $5,100 individual limit but also corporate dollars.

Van Tuyl was less generous with Ducey in his first gubernatorial run, giving him just $2,000 in his bid for the Republican nomination.

But Van Tuyl also provided $90,000 to the Arizona Republican Party in 2010.

At the heart of the issue is a state law which makes it a crime to make a contribution in the name of another person. Violations are a Class 6 felony which carry a one-year prison term and a $150,000 fine.

The CLC complaint alleges that the money given to the Ducey Victory Fund by Blue Magnolia actually came from Van Tuyl.

As proof, Fischer points out that Blue Magnolia gave $100,000 to DefendArizona, a political action committee set up to help Martha McSally in her unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.

After CLC filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission which oversees federal races, DefendArizona filed an amended report listing Van Tuyl as the actual contributor.

Fischer said he only became aware of the donation to the Ducey Victory Fund and filed his complaint with the state after a story by Capitol Media Services about contributors to the governor’s reelection efforts.

Van Tuyl has not responded to messages left with his Berkshire Hathaway office in Texas.

But the same Arizona law that makes hiding the true source of dollars a felony also makes it a crime for a candidate or committee to knowingly accept a contribution made by someone in the name of another person.

That, then, gets to the question of what did Ducey know — or should have known — about the single largest contribution to his re-election campaign.

“I don’t have anything more to say on that,” the governor responded when asked directly.

Technically speaking, Ducey did not get to use the $500,000 directly to ensure another four years in office because of the prohibition on corporate donations to candidate campaigns. Instead, the Ducey Victory Fund was set up so that any donations that Ducey could accept — meaning non-corporate dollars of less than $5,100 — would be transferred to the governor’s own campaign committee.

Anything else the governor could not accept personally was given to the Arizona Republican Party which, under current state law, not only can accept unlimited and corporate dollars but also is free to spend as much as it wants on behalf of any candidate — and without disclosing the amount. That’s why there is no record of how much the state GOP spent to help Ducey.

That exception may be going away.

Earlier this week Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Palmer voided changes in campaign finance laws approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Ducey.

One of those changes created a new exception for political parties for expenses that have to be publicly disclosed when they spend money on behalf of candidates. Palmer ruled that lawmakers were powerless to make that change because the reporting requirement had been approved by voters in 1998 as part of creating the Citizens Clean Elections Act.

An appeal of that ruling is anticipated.

Ducey, Garcia to debate in Phoenix, Tucson

David Garcia and Doug Ducey
David Garcia and Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey and Democratic challenger David Garcia will go head-to-head in back-to-back televised debates on Sept. 24 in Phoenix and Sept. 25 in Tucson.

The Phoenix debate, put on by the Clean Elections Commission, will be broadcast on Arizona PBS. The Tucson debate, put on in conjunction with Arizona Public Media and the Arizona Daily Star, will be broadcast in the Phoenix area by KJZZ.

“The Governor looks forward to sharing his record on the economy, historic investments in education, and work to make Arizona a safer, better place to live, work and raise a family,” Ducey’s campaign manager J.P. Twist said in a written statement.

Ducey participated in three general election debates with Fred DuVal in 2014. He rejected rival foe Ken Bennett’s requests for debates during the Republican primary this election cycle.

Just before the governor’s campaign announced Ducey would participate in two debates, Garcia’s campaign called for three televised debates, which would have included a debate in Yuma. The debates would have corresponded to Arizona’s three media markets.

“The voters have a right to hear from their candidates and so I challenge Doug Ducey to debate me at least three (3) times on television before the general election. Name the time, name the place and we will be there,” Garcia said in a statement.

Previous sitting governors have participated in two or fewer general election debates. Former Gov. Jan Brewer debated Democrat Terry Goddard just once. Former Gov. Janet Napolitano participated in two general election debates during both of her campaigns.

Gubernatorial debates


Time: 5 p.m. Sept. 24

Place: Arizona PBS studio

Moderator: Ted Simons of Arizona PBS


Time: 7 p.m. Sept. 25

Place: Arizona Public Media studio, but broadcast in Phoenix by KJZZ

Moderators: Lorraine Rivera of AZPM, Steve Goldstein of KJZZ, Christopher Conover of AZPM and Joe Ferguson of the Arizona Daily Star

Election officials to refer fraudulent petitions to AG for criminal probe

Staff at the Secretary of State’s Office combs through the final petition sheets filed by the #InvestInEd campaign, looking for
missing signatures, voter information and other irregularities, on

State Elections Director Eric Spencer said the Secretary of State’s Office is preparing to ask the attorney general to investigate fraud allegations that have plagued the 2018 election cycle.

There have been accusations of fraudulent signatures on the nominating petitions of at least four candidates this year.

Spencer said his staff conducted a cursory review of the signatures gathered by all 310 candidates for state, legislative and federal office this year. He said the staff is mainly focused on the nominating petitions submitted by gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett, Sandra Dowling, who is running for the 8th Congressional District, Rep. Ray Martinez, D-Phoenix, who was running for the vacant Senate seat in Legislative District 30, and Mark Syms, an independent candidate running for the Senate in Legislative District 28.

Their nominating petitions were challenged in court for alleged signature fraud and forgery and each had hired a former Democratic candidate, Larry Herrera, to collect signatures for them.

Spencer said one thing they did find is that when they mapped out the addresses of the purported circulators who collected signatures for the candidates, they all lived fairly close to Herrera.

Herrera, a Democrat who ran for the Senate in Legislative District 20 earlier this year, is also facing fraud allegations from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission in connection with his campaign.

Spencer said once the Secretary of State’s Office finishes processing and reviewing signatures filed by campaigns pushing four ballot initiatives, he will also check with staff to see if any of the circulators who collected signatures for candidate campaigns also collected signatures for any of the initiatives.

“I don’t know whether there is any overlap at this point, but we want to marry the results of what we learned from the initiative process with the candidate process and put together a comprehensive referral,” he said.

So far, Spencer said, the office has gathered enough evidence that it feels comfortable proceeding with a criminal referral.

The ultimate decision on whether or not to proceed will be left up to Secretary of State Michele Reagan, who he said has not yet been briefed.

However, Spencer said this is an issue that Reagan and staff have made a priority.

“I think the secretary and I agree that it’s probably time to send a message out there that this isn’t going to be tolerated any longer,” he said.

Spencer had previously told the Arizona Capitol Times that the Secretary of State’s Office would allow the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office to determine whether to refer the four cases to law enforcement or an outside agency that can analyze the allegedly forged signatures. If the county refused to pursue the matter, Spencer said, the Secretary of State’s Office would.

Sophia Solis, a spokeswoman for the Recorder’s Office, declined to comment on any ongoing or possible investigations. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said it would review any case referred to the office by the county recorder. However, a follow-up email asking whether any cases had already been referred went unanswered.

Spencer said he is not sure where the county stands on the issue. He said both agencies have been busy analyzing the nearly 1.5 million signatures filed by the four initiatives and just because the county has not yet referred the case for a criminal investigation does not mean it won’t.

But he said the Secretary of State’s Office wasn’t willing to wait on the matter.

“I just decided that there was enough evidence in our possession where we could independently refer this evidence to the attorney general without needing to wait for the county,” he said.

Elections officials mull criminal probes of forgeries


Elections officials said they will likely refer several campaigns that have been implicated for fraud and forgery to law enforcement for further investigation.

At least four candidates whose nominating petitions were challenged in Maricopa County Superior Court have faced allegations of widespread signature fraud.

Eric Spencer
Eric Spencer

State Elections Director Eric Spencer said the Secretary of State’s Office will allow the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office to determine whether to refer the four cases to law enforcement or an outside agency that can analyze the allegedly forged signatures.

County Recorder Adrian Fontes said he has not yet decided if the cases will be referred for prosecution. He said he met with the county attorney on June 27 to determine what the office will do.

Gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett; Sandra Dowling, who is running for the 8th Congressional District; Rep. Ray Martinez, D-Phoenix, who was running for the vacant Senate seat in Legislative District 30; and Mark Syms, an independent candidate running for the Senate in Legislative District 28, have all been accused of filing fraudulent signatures.

The County Recorder’s Office invalidated thousands of the signatures the candidates turned in, including 1,460 collected by Syms, Dowling and Martinez that didn’t match those on voter registration records.

The candidates hired a man named Larry Herrera to collect signatures for them. Herrera, a Democrat who ran for the Senate in Legislative District 20 earlier this year, is also facing fraud allegations from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission in connection with his campaign.

If the county refuses to pursue the matter, Spencer said, the Secretary of State’s Office will.

“I think we would give Maricopa County breathing space for a couple of weeks to determine if they want to do something. If they pass, I’m fairly certain Secretary (Michele) Reagan would want to take the next step and work on referring it to the attorney general,” he said.

Spencer said staff has been asked to do a cursory review of all candidate petitions to see if some of the same circulators who were implicated in these cases collected signatures for other campaigns.

However, he said a review of the nominating petitions will depend on what kind of resources the office is able to dedicate to this, since the office is also working on other election-related matters.

Still, that won’t deter the office from pursuing further action, he said.

“The bottom line is we’re not going to let this fade away or let it go. It’s probably too late to do anything for the 2018 cycle in terms of a deterrent effect, but in terms of the 2020 cycle, we need the circulator community to know there will be consequences for fraudulent activity,” he said.

Agency spokesman Matt Roberts said it’s premature to say if the Secretary of State’s Office will push for legislative changes to petition gathering laws next year. He said no one from the Legislature has approached the office about changes to the law.

“There has been what seems to be an uptick in issues in petition circulation and we will certainly take a look at the election cycle as a whole and determine what types of legislation might be necessary moving into the next election cycle and more importantly the next legislative cycle,” he said.

Spencer said in addition to a possible criminal investigation, another way to prevent such signature fraud from happening in future elections is to encourage candidates to vet signatures before submitting them to the Secretary of State’s Office.

He said much of the blame has been placed on the signature-gathering firms and the circulators themselves, but candidates hold some responsibility to double check their work.

“They don’t bear a criminal responsibility, but they do hold some responsibility, on a sliding scale, to ensure everything looks right,” Spencer said.

Spencer said first-time candidates or candidates using a new or unknown firm have an obligation to check their nominating petitions before turning them in. That obligation is less for experienced candidates who are working with a firm that has a proven track record, he said.

In Syms’ case, Spencer said there were numerous red flags, including widely reported fraud allegations against Herrera, the large number of signatures collected in such a short time frame, and the “astronomical” number of signatures collected in a single day by some of the circulators.

Taking all that into account, he said there was a high burden on Syms’ campaign to review the petitions.

“It is not enough to call yourself a victim of fraud,” he said. “Candidates aren’t victims here.”

Spencer pointed out that there are several candidates who withdrew from their respective races prior to a challenge being filed or once a challenge was filed because they reviewed their petitions and found that they didn’t have enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot.

Radio host Seth Leibsohn dropped out of the Republican primary for the 9th Congressional District after submitting his signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office but before a legal challenge was filed. Leibsohn ended his campaign after he reviewed his petition sheets and found that he didn’t have enough valid signatures to qualify.

Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, who was running for state treasurer, didn’t file nominating petitions because the people he hired to collect signatures provided fraudulent signatures the day before the filing deadline.

“That was a responsible and ethical thing for them to do. Those are two good examples of candidates taking responsibility for what goes on in their campaigns,” Spencer said.

Ex-AG Tom Horne violated campaign laws

Tom Horne
Tom Horne

A three-year investigation of former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne found he illegally used his office staff to work on his failed 2014 re-election effort but that no criminal charges are warranted and he won’t have to pay back additional money.

The investigation by former Gilbert Town Attorney Michael Hamblin and retired Court of Appeals Judge Daniel A. Barker that followed a complaint to the secretary of state’s office was released Monday. Hamblin and Barker were appointed as special attorneys general.

Their decision orders Horne to refile his 2014 campaign finance reports to show the value of the work done by his office staff and the market value of rent on a campaign office.

But the order said a $10,000 fine Horne paid to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission in late 2014 to settle the same allegations was sufficient.

The allegations against Horne helped torpedo his re-election. He lost in the Republican primary to current Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Brnovich played no role in the investigation.

Monday’s decision essentially ends a series of legal troubles that have dogged Horne for years, although Horne said his attorney may consider an appeal to an administrative law judge “for reputation purposes.” The new campaign finance filings, when they come, will also be reviewed by Clean Elections to ensure they meet the terms of the earlier settlement.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office previously concluded that no criminal charges should be brought for the use of office staff for his campaign because there wasn’t a reasonable likelihood of convicting Horne on felony charges and the statute of limitations on misdemeanor charges had passed.

Separately, Horne spent years battling allegations that he illegally coordinated campaign matters with former aide Kathleen Winn when she ran an outside group supporting his 2010 election. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk determined Horne violated campaign finance laws, ordering him to repay $400,000 and face up to $1.2 million in fines. But the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in May that Polk wasn’t a neutral arbiter, and the Cochise County Attorney cleared Horne in July.

In Monday’s lengthy decision, Hamblin found that several of Horne’s staff at the Attorney General’s Office engaged in campaign work while on state time, and ordered him to re-file his campaign finance documents to account for their time. Hamblin also found that a $100 payment for use of a private office was below market value and needed to be accounted for.

But Hamblin noted that it would be difficult to fully account for the use of state staff and bypassed any additional fines, saying the $10,000 payment Horne made in 2014 was “deemed sufficient.”

Horne has consistently said he didn’t violate any campaign finance laws and that any campaign work that was done by state staff was minimal and didn’t violate the law.

In a statement, he said he was “pleased that after three years intensive scrutiny and investigation, page 18 of the report states that the $10,000 previously paid by Tom Horne ‘is deemed sufficient,’ and that there is no reason to impose additional fines.”

He didn’t address the conclusions that he used his staff to do campaign work on state time. But Horne noted “the use of any state supplies, and computers appears to have been minimal.” He also said employees he hired who doubled as campaign staff were capable state employees.

One of those staffers, Sarah Beattie, filed the complaint that alleged top executive staff in Horne’s office did fundraising, campaign planning meetings and other campaign activities while on state time.

Gubernatorial candidate files suit to keep campaign alive


Gubernatorial hopeful Ken Bennett is asking a judge to give him one last chance to qualify for public funding for his campaign.

The lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court contends that the Secretary of State’s Office shut down the online portal for people to make $5 donations that would entitle him to $839,704 in his bid to be the Republican nominee at 5 p.m. Tuesday. But he said Arizona law set the deadline for donations at midnight that night.

Bennett said he already has 3,995 donations. And he contends that he would have had the minimum 4,000 — and more — if the web site had not gone dark.

Representing himself, Bennett wants Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes to direct the site to be reopened for at least four hours. He told Capitol Media Services that will give campaign volunteers a chance to contact people who had said they would have given but for problems with the portal.

And he wants Contes to order the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which administers the public funding to accept these late donations even though they come after the deadline.

A hearing is set for Monday morning.

Matt Roberts, spokesman for Secretary of State Michele Reagan, said he does not know whether she will oppose what Bennett, himself a former secretary of state, is demanding.

“The lawyers will decide that over the weekend,” he said.

But Tom Collins, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the extra time Bennett wants is contrary to the law.

Bennett acknowledged that by the time he gets a final ruling — especially if there is an appeal of whatever Contes decides — Tuesday’s primary election will be over. That means even if he gets his $5 donations and qualifies for the money it is too late for him to spend it in his bid for the nomination.

But Bennett said there still are reasons to pursue the case.

First, if Bennett defeats incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey, qualifying for public funding would entitle him to another $1.2 million for the general election campaign. And even if he loses, Bennett said the money could be used to repay him the $43,000 he loaned his campaign.

Bennett said he will produce at least one witness who will tell Contes of his inability to make a donation after 5 p.m. on Tuesday even though the site should have remained online until midnight.

Roberts acknowledged the portal did go dark at 5 p.m. but said that was the result of programming done under the administration of the prior secretary of state — meaning Bennett.

Bennett said that may very well be true, saying he was the one who first made online donations for public funding available. But he said it was up to Reagan and her staff to keep pace with changes in technology.

Roberts also said the site was reopened several hours later after Bennett complained.

Judge to rule on Clean Elections ballot measure

(Deposit Photos/Wave Break Media)
(Deposit Photos/Wave Break Media)

A judge will decide whether lawmakers have an absolute right to ask voters to approve two changes in law in a single act, even if they may only want one of them and not the other.

The proposal at issue asks voters to amend the Citizens Clean Elections Act to keep publicly financed candidates from using any of their funds to buy services from political parties and political consultants. Danny Adelman, attorney for the commission that administers the law, acknowledged that could prove popular.

But at a hearing Thursday, Adelman pointed out to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders that the measure put on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature also seeks to give the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council, a panel of political appointees, the power to veto all proposed commission rules. That covers everything from their power to force public disclosure of campaign spending to mandates for publicly funded candidates to submit to at least one debate.

That, he said, is likely to prove a much harder sell to voters who in 1998 created the commission and the voluntary system of public financing of elections.

Adelman told Sanders that joining the two issues was not just happenstance. He said it was a ploy by lawmakers “in the hope that voters are forced to take this all-or-nothing position that it will somehow pass.”

He said the Arizona Constitution requires that acts of the Legislature “shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.’ And Adelman warned the judge that if lawmakers get away with linking these two issues it would open the door for other sorts of legislative shenanigans in future ballot referrals.

“They could pass something that joins together highway funding with a ban on abortion, or with something completely different like abolition of the death penalty,” Adelman said. He said that’s why there are constitutional provisions to prevent this kind of “logrolling,” combining what he said are unrelated popular and less-than-popular provisions into a single measure.

But Assistant Attorney General Rusty Crandell told Sanders that constitutional provision applies only to “acts of the Legislature.” He said the vote by lawmakers to send the issue to voters does not fit that definition.

Anyway, Crandell argued, if there is a violation of constitutional single-subject provisions, that can be litigated only after the measure becomes law — assuming it remains on the ballot and assuming voters approve.

Mike Liburdi, a private attorney hired by Republican legislative leaders, went a step farther. He said there is no violation, saying there need be only a “natural connection” among various ballot provisions.

Hanging in the balance is whether voters get the last word.

The law allows but does not require candidates for statewide and legislative office to get public funds for their campaigns if they do not take other special interest dollars.

It has never been popular with business interests — the groups that have traditionally funded campaigns — who mounted several legal challenges, some of which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And while the justices there voided one provision, the system remains in place.

What caused at least part of the uproar this year has been the fact that the commission contends it has the right to require public disclosure of outside spending on campaigns, even for candidates who do not take public dollars. That comes even as lawmakers are amending other state statutes to permit more anonymous “dark money” campaigns.

But the Arizona Constitution limits the ability of lawmakers to tinker with laws approved by voters. That makes sending the issues to the ballot the only option for those who want to trim the commission’s powers.

Adelman told Sanders it is clear that lawmakers are free to ask one or both questions: limit use of public dollars and subject the commission to the regulatory council. What they cannot do, he said, is put the issue on the ballot as a single take-it-or-leave-it proposal.

Liburdi, for his part, said the issue is not as black and white as Adelman suggests.

“Here’s what the courts look for: Is there a direct or indirect topical relation between these two provisions,” he said. “And there clearly is.

Liburdi also pointed out that the entire Clean Elections Act was approved in a single ballot measure in 1998.

But the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that measures crafted by voters themselves are not subject to the single-subject rule. Sanders is being asked to decide whether it applies to statutory changes that lawmakers are asking voters to approve.

Whatever she decides is unlikely to be the last word, as the losing side is virtually certain to seek Supreme Court review.

Judge to rule on Clean Elections measure


A claim that lawmakers are giving voters a flawed explanation of a measure on the November ballot drew a skeptical reaction Friday from the judge hearing the case.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury did not dispute the argument by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission that the description crafted by the Republican-controlled Legislative Council of changes sought by Republican lawmakers does not contain certain elements about how the commission operates. That includes not only a full list of the duties of the commission, created by voters in 1998, but also the procedures it must now follow when adopting rules.

But Coury said he’s not sure all that is necessary for the explanation of the measure that will appear in the brochure to be mailed to the homes of all 3.6 million registered voters ahead of the general election.

Commission attorney Joe Roth told the judge that state law requires the council to prepare an “impartial” analysis of all ballot measures.

“It has to be fair, neutral and even-handed,” he said. “It can’t omit, exaggerate or understate material provisions in a way that would be misleading.”

And Roth said there are things that a voter, looking to the analysis as a guide to what this ballot measure would do, is not being told.

The biggest complaint is about a provision in the measure to subject the commission’s rules to review — and potential rejection — by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council.

That fact is mentioned in the analysis. But he said it is worded in a way to make voters believe that the commission until now has had has free rein when enacting rules when, in fact, there are existing requirements for public notice, meetings and comment.

Potentially more troubling, he said, is the failure to point out that it was voters who in 1998 set up the voluntary system that allows candidates for statewide and legislative office to get public funding if they don’t take other special-interest dollars.

“Part of the voter-approved initiative was the establishment of the commission,” Roth said.

“And part of that Clean Elections Act makes the commission independent and free from oversight of other parts of the government,” he continued. “That’s a pillar of the commission’s independence.”

What the Legislative Council analysis does not say, Roth told the judge, is that the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council, which would get veto power of commission rules on everything from candidate funding to enforcing campaign finance laws, is made up of political appointees of the governor who can fire any of them at any time.

“Voters are now being asked to undo a significant piece of what makes the commission independent,” he said, without being fully informed of that change.

But Mike Braun, staff director of the Legislative Council, told Coury that the analysis was never intended to be a full-blown explanation of every aspect of the underlying law and the changes that are being sought. Instead, he said, it “provides the voters a concise and neutral analysis” of what is proposed.

“The council analysis properly omits a discussion of the policy issues,” Braun said. He said people are free to make those points elsewhere in the pamphlet where individuals can submit their own 300-word arguments.

And Braun said voters are free to read the actual statutory changes that will also be in the pamphlet.

That argument, however, drew questions from Coury who suggested that simply making the text available would not give voters information they might want or need.

Anyone looking at the text of the legislation would see that it proposes to repeal “Commission rule-making is exempt from Title 41, Chapter 6, Article 3.” That’s the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.

The judge wondered out loud how anyone reading that verbiage — complete with a line stricken through those words — would understand how that change would actually affect the commission’s operations.

“The only reference to the Administrative Procedures Act is the arguably cryptic reference that’s stricken,” Braun conceded. But he said the council analysis cures that by mentioning the Administrative Procedures Act.

“The council called that out so when the voters read the publicity pamphlet they have the pieces that they need to put the puzzle together,” Braun said.

Coury promised a ruling by the end of the day Monday. But whichever side loses is likely to seek Arizona Supreme Court review.

Rubalcava resigns from House, cites family

Rep. Jesus Rubalcava
Rep. Jesus Rubalcava (D-Gila Bend)

Rep. Jesus Rubalcava, D-Gila Bend, has resigned in the shadow of an ongoing Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission investigation.

“I have struggled with this decision, and ultimately it is for the best that I depart to focus on my family and profession,” Rubalcava wrote in a letter to his Democratic colleagues Wednesday. “I leave knowing that this legislative body and government will be here regardless but my children will only get to be children once.”

In May, a Clean Elections audit found that Rubalcava’s campaign accounting was a mess. He had combined his personal funds with campaign funds, and he used the campaign dollars to cover personal expenses, like flights out of state and hotels in Washington D.C., Memphis, San Diego and San Jose.

Those two violations alone – and they were joined by others – would have been reason enough for his removal from office under the Clean Elections Act. The investigation has not yet been concluded.

Rubalcava did not deny the allegations against him but chalked them up to his being a first-time candidate not familiar with the rules.

He did not mention the audit in his resignation email.

Still, House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, assumed he would not have resigned absent the resulting investigation.

“We’re sorry that this has happened,” Rios said. “We do support and respect his decision. It’s never easy. Folks work very hard to get into office, and so, I know it had to have been a very difficult decision for him to make. But at the end of the day, I think he made the right decision in terms of choosing to focus on his family and put his energies elsewhere.”

As for the Clean Elections inquiry, that’s something that will follow him out of office.

House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios
House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios (D-Phoenix) (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)

“That will be something that he will need to continue to address even once he’s exited the Legislature,” Rios said. “That remains a process in motion.”

She was confident his constituents of Legislative District 4 would be taken care of in the meantime.

Rios anticipated the usual process of replacing Rubalcava would take its course, but that may not be so certain.

Because the Maricopa County portion of the district does not have the 30 precinct committeemen required to nominate candidates to replace Rubalcava, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will have to appoint a committee to choose three candidates, according to Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Enrique Gutierrez.

Rubalcava lives in Gila Bend. His district stretches from southern Yuma to the Tucson area, and juts into the West Valley in Maricopa County.

His stint at the House was punctuated by controversy even beyond the Clean Elections audit.

He drew ire in April after writing on social media that he wanted to punch Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko in the throat following her successful passage of legislation expanding Arizona’s school voucher program.

Rubalcava later defended the comment as merely rhetorical anger in response to the Peoria senator “prancing around” the House after the victory.

He initially declined to apologize, only going so far as to remove the post containing the comment from Facebook. A week later, though, he folded to the firestorm of criticism that erupted in its wake.

Jeremy Duda contributed to this report.

The Breakdown: Runnin’ dirty

Clean Elections Commission logo620Thousands of Arizona women could have to choose between paying more for health care or driving long distances to receive it after Planned Parenthood withdrew from a federal funding program.

A Supreme Court justice raised eyebrows when Gov. Ducey tweeted a photo of him at a conservative conference.

And Democrats are running dirty, ditching Clean Elections funding to maintain access to the party’s list of voters in 2020.


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Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.