October 5, 2004
A group formed to elect moderate Republicans was trying to influence the primary election despite claims it was only seeking to educate voters, a judge ruled Monday.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward Burke said the clear purpose of brochures mailed to voters by Mainstream Arizona in eight legislative districts was to reelect nine lawmakers. He said the fact that these brochures did not use the words "vote for" is immaterial.
Jack Jewett, one of the organizers of Mainstream Arizona, said the decision, unless overturned, will eviscerate the year-old group.
That’s because it will mean every time it spends money to aid legislative moderates, their more conservative foes will get state dollars.
That’s exactly what happened in the primary when the Clean Elections Commission gave up to $5,000 in matching funds to each of 15 challengers. That extra cash likely helped some of them defeat candidates Mainstream Arizona was supporting.
The decision also could create new legal problems for Mainstream Arizona, formed last year as a 527 organization, which allows independent groups to spend money on political activities. Internal Revenue Service code lets these organizations take corporate cash.
Arizona law, however, prohibits corporate dollars to influence state campaigns. And Mainstream Arizona has received money from several Arizona businesses, including $40,000 from Banner Health, which owns hospitals in Mesa, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Glendale and Page, and $25,000 from developer Estes Co.
Former Rep. Jack Jewett and former Attorney General Grant Woods, both Republicans, formed Mainstream Arizona last year, saying they wanted to prevent the election of "fringe " candidates. This year, they mailed brochures touting the record of GOP candidates who supported education and refused to cut other state spending.
The Clean Elections Commission gave $67,500 to their foes based on a provision in public financing law that matches money spent on behalf of others.
Mainstream Arizona sued, noting the brochures never mentioned the Sept. 7 primary. Burke said that is irrelevant.
He pointed out they were mailed one day before early ballots were mailed to voters.
The judge also said the brochures told recipients to urge the legislators pictured — there were different mailings for each district — "to continue to support a fiscally responsible budget and strategic investments in Arizona."
"Barring a special legislative session between now and January, the only way that the legislators could ‘continue’ to support a fiscally responsible budget is to be re-elected," Burke wrote. "Therefore . . . the unmistakable message of the mailer is that the two legislators should be re-elected."