GOP lawmakers accuse Clean Elections of bias - East Valley Tribune: News

GOP lawmakers accuse Clean Elections of bias

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Posted: Saturday, February 26, 2005 9:08 am | Updated: 9:53 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

February 26, 2005

Republicans angry about campaign finance investigations against five state lawmakers are demanding regulators hold Democrats such as Gov. Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Terry Goddard to the same standards.

One GOP activist has filed complaints against Napolitano and Goddard related to their 2002 campaigns with the state Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

The commission is reviewing the actions of a senator and four House members who campaigned with tax dollars in 2004. Four of the five are new to the Legislature and one, Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Scottsdale, has been accused by commission auditors of spending beyond state limits.

A common allegation is that all five lawmakers gave most of their funding to two Republican operatives, who in turn hired other companies to produce campaign mailings and signs. The commission says state law requires Clean Elections candidates to pay for all goods and services directly — including printing and postage — and not reimburse a political consultant or campaign worker.

But the lawmakers say the commission is being unreasonable. In formal responses to the commission this week, Reps. Rick Murphy, RGlendale, and Pamela Gorman, R-Anthem, said most candidates pay others to take care of campaign work.

"According to publicly available campaign finance reports, nearly every legislative candidate in 2004 would also be guilty if the interpretation being applied is valid," Murphy said.

To make that point, Republican activist Patrick Meyers of Anthem has filed complaints against Napolitano and Goddard. A friend of Gorman’s, Meyers said he wants the commission to stop trying to punish Republicans while ignoring Democratic candidates who use the same tactics.

"Tax dollars are being wasted for selective enforcement," Meyers said. "That’s something that bothers me as a conservative."

Meyers lists 83 possible violations by Napolitano, focusing on her use of an out-of-state consultant to buy $1.8 million in media advertising and $113,000 in expense reimbursements to her campaign manager. Meyers claims the attorney general had 21 violations.

Meyers said he’s prepared to file complaints against more than 50 other candidates.

Napolitano’s former campaign lawyer, Scott Bales, said Friday he didn’t expect Meyers’ complaint would result in a formal investigation, as several complaints were filed in 2002.

"We were looked at inside and out," Bales said. "The Clean Elections commission didn’t think any action was warranted."

Goddard said Friday he has recused himself and his office from involvement with any investigation. He views the complaint as an attempt to divert attention from the ongoing Clean Elections investigations.

Earlier this year, the commission did open similar investigations against Mark Manoil and Nina Trasoff, Democratic candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission. Clean Elections regulators closed those cases without levying any penalties after Manoil and Trasoff amended their campaign finance reports to show how their consultants spent their funds.

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