After examining a complaint referred by the Secretary of State in late October, the Arizona Attorney General's office soon determined that Sears had made an innocent mistake. On Thursday, Evan Daniels, unit chief counsel, sent her a letter notifying her that the case was officially dropped.
Ryan Anderson, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office, said that the case had been closed for at least two months.
Sears' mistake appeared to be minor and unintentional, Anderson said. First-time candidates could easily make mistakes on their campaign finance filings and disclosure statements, and "it can be confusing," especially for candidates who don't have professional help, he said.
Sears, a Democrat, ran last fall for one of two spots on the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities and oversees businesses, among other responsibilities. She lost the election to fellow Democrat Sandra Kennedy and Republican incumbent Justin Olson.
The investigations into Sears' financial disclosures began with a complaint from an Arizona resident in September.
Eric Spencer, elections director under former Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, referred the alleged violation to the AG's office. He said that although Sears had listed a business owned by her husband on her financial disclosure forms, she had failed to list eight others under her or her husband's name, the Arizona Republic reported at the time.
Sears responded to the complaint in a letter to the AG's office on November 12, shortly before she officially lost the race for Corporation Commissioner. She said that she was amending her financial disclosures to include the businesses she had originally left off, and she tried to explain her mistake.
Under the law, she thought she had to disclose only "profitable businesses," Sears wrote. "The businesses that are the target of the complaint are not merely unprofitable — they are essentially completely dormant. That is, they are for all intents and purposes a name reservation," she wrote.
In the letter, Sears took responsibility for the mistake, but she asked the AG's office not to fine her and to accept amended disclosures instead. Under Arizona law, the violation would have been a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500.
Among the businesses on Sears' amended financial disclosure forms were Desert Rain Production LLC, described as a "music venture," real estate company E-Squared Estates LLC, and SOS Technology LLC, described as "general consulting."
Sears did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment on the closure of the case.
"Ignorance of the law is not necessarily a defense," Anderson said, "but in the totality of looking at everything, she made a mistake on her filing that was not designed to hide information from the public."