“Follow the Law” [Except Me] Slogan Fail

by Deedra Abboud in Political, Social Views, Solutions
October 30, 2022 0 comments

The Secretary of State is in charge of overseeing the submission of financial disclosures and campaign finance reports, as well as reporting complaints to the Attorney General’s Office, the law enforcement arm of the state government.

The disclosures are intended to provide the public with a comprehensive view of an elected official’s personal finances, including jobs, debts, and potential conflicts of interest as well as sources of all revenue and expenses for their campaigns.

Under Arizona law, disclosure violations are a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious type of misdemeanor crime. When campaign financial report violations are enforced, they can result in severe fines totalling thousands of dollars.

The November SOS candidates are Democrat Adrian Fontes and MAGA Republican Mark Finchem.

An Arizona Republic investigation in September found Mark Finchem failed to report a business he created that Trump’s reelection campaign paid $6,037, failed to disclose ties to two other income businesses, and did not report monthly pension benefits totaling about $160,000 since taking office in 2015.

Finchem, who was a prominent member of the “Stop the Steal” movement, has refused to comment on the alleged violations but has described his pension benefits as “paltry.”

Finchem, a retired police officer whose campaign slogan is “follow the law,” dismissed the reporting violations as a “form technicality.”

Arizona law permits candidates to correct inaccuracies, even years later, to avoid penalties and every other candidate from every party with omissions has done so.

But Finchem has provided no explanation and has not filed any amendments for the legally required reporting omissions, though he reported his pension for the first time in 2022.

Kori Lorick, Director of State Elections at the SOS, said her agency has completed its examination and has referred the complaints to the attorney general for investigation and possible enforcement.

A background explanation, a legal analysis, and five exhibits were included in the referral to the attorney general, stating the “Secretary finds reasonable cause to believe that the respondent violated” two state statutes.

The Attorney General’s Office, on the other hand, claimed that the secretary of state failed to make the required legal “reasonable cause determination,” and that the AG’s office cannot pursue investigations or prosecutions of campaign finance violations unless the SOS submits a referral to the AG’s office with specific wording, even if the AG’s office, the enforcement arm of Arizona government, receives a direct complaint from the public.

Though the law has not changed, such technicalities were not an issue 11 years ago when former AG Terry Goddard prosecuted campaign finance violation complaints without an SOS referral.

As result of a dispute over magic words for enforcement of Arizona law, a pair of campaign finance complaints against Finchem has stalled for 20 months and counting.

If MAGA Republicans win the AG and SOS positions, and continue AG Republican Mark Bnovich’s campaign finance law interpretations, Finchem will be the sole decider of [non]enforcement charges filed against himself.

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