The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission has agreed to reduce a fine for Republican Matt Salmon to $3,472 from $10,000 for failing to report some campaign expenses on time.
But the commission on Tuesday rejected much of the reasoning for a lower amount recommended by a state administrative law judge earlier this month. Salmon’s attorney said that probably means Salmon will pay the fine but also will continue to press a $3 million civil rights claim against the state.
"I think Matt would have been much more open to forgiving or waiving all of his claims if the commission had just adopted the judge’s rationale," said attorney Timothy Casey of Phoenix.
Salmon, the 2002 Republican candidate for governor, has been locked in a feud since late August with commission executive director Colleen Connor over how his campaign reported expenses during last year’s primary.
Salmon updated some of his earlier reports in mid-August. After several miscues, Connor told the commission that new information revealed nearly $100,000 had been reported after deadlines set by statute. Connor has said timely reporting is critical for the state to provide proper matching funds to candidates receiving public campaign financing. The commission assessed its highest fine in February.
Salmon claims Connor pursued a political vendetta because of his outspoken opposition to public campaign financing. Casey argued during a May administrative appeal hearing that any missed deadlines were minor and accidental.
Administrative law judge Brian B. Tully agreed, and suggested the fine be reduced to the amount proposed by Salmon, $3,472.
The commission met for more than 90 minutes Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss the administrative judge’s recommendation, using an exemption in the state’s open meeting law for receiving legal advice.
In the public portion of the meeting, commission members made almost no comment as they voted to modify the judge’s ruling by removing most of his reasons for the smaller amount. But commission members also refused to include new proposed language reflecting Connor’s position on why the original fine was imposed.
Salmon filed a claim in February that Connor’s handling of the case violated his civil rights. Casey said Salmon will decide whether to take the claim to court after returning from a trip out of the country.