Monday, November 30, 2015

BREAKING, SETTLED: Democratic AG's Group Avoids Contempt, Files In Arizona As "Political Committee" ...From 2010

In advance of a contempt hearing today, the national Democratic Attorneys General Association ("DAGA") gave in and registered their blandly-named 2010 Arizona "Committee For Justice & Fairness" ("CJF") as a "political committee" with the Secretary of State's Office. The finance reports also filed showed no surprises, although AZ Secretary of State Michele Reagan had expressed hope they would.

The filings represent one of the final chapters in a five-year book that began with vicious attacks against the soon-to-be Attorney General Tom Horne by a group of Attorneys General trying to remain undercover. It then became a stretched-out legal battle over whether Arizona law was tough enough to force the group to file.

Arizona's Politics was the first to report on the true identity of CJF, on the apparent illegality of their hit job, and on the irony that Arizona law required then-AG Terry Goddard to investigate a group that he was a key member of. We have periodically covered the legal battle since then.

CJF spent nearly $800,000 on the ad, after DAGA had put nearly $1M into the Arizona campaign.  The balance went to polling, research, and then the attorney's fees defending themselves after the election.  CJF attempted to claim that the ad was not a campaign ad, because it was urging voters to contact Horne (then-State Supt. of Public Instruction) about "an issue".

After the Court of Appeals ruled for the government and the Democratic AG's Association did not appeal, the trial court ordered CJF to retroactively file. It did not, until Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery filed for a contempt order. Reagan chimed in with public attention. The hearing was set for today; however, the parties instead filed a Notice of Settlement.

The filings triggered automically-calculated fines by the Secy of State's ofc. The oldest report, filed
1,929 days late and triggered a $450 fine. Total fines are $7,200; there are not yet details on the settlement and whether there was restitution for the state's expenses included.

Reagan has also taken aim at Veterans for a Strong America, which ran an anti-Christine Jones ad in last year's gubernatorial campaign. She is not pushing to extend her authority beyond these two non-filers to pressure dark money groups which are registered but are not disclosing donors.

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