Arizona GOP Blasts Clean Energy Group for Filing Failure, but State Admits Fault

The Arizona GOP blasted Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, a PAC started by California billionaire Tom Steyer (above), for not filing its last campaign finance report. But the Secretary of State's Office took blame for the problem on Wednesday.
The Arizona GOP blasted Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, a PAC started by California billionaire Tom Steyer (above), for not filing its last campaign finance report. But the Secretary of State's Office took blame for the problem on Wednesday. Fortune Live Media/flickr
The Arizona Republican Party blasted Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona this week for not filing campaign-finance paperwork with the state related to November's failed Prop 127 initiative.

Jonathan Lines, state GOP chair, sent a harshly worded statement to the news media on Tuesday, suggesting the PAC — launched by California billionaire Tom Steyer — was unlawfully withholding its final report to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office on Prop 127's donations and expenses, and that Katie Hobbs, the newly elected Democratic secretary of state, was helping to keep the public in the dark.

"I hope the Secretary of State's office is preparing to send a strong message to the PAC. Otherwise, we will be forced to conclude that [Hobbs] is sweeping Tom Steyer’s violations under the rug as a ‘thank you’ for the millions of dollars he and the PAC spent on her behalf," Lines wrote in the statement.

Hobbs' office and Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona tell Phoenix New Times that Lines' complaint is misguided.

Aleigha Cavalier, spokesperson for Steyer and the PAC, put it differently: "It's just more lies from the Republican Party, as usual."

Hobbs' office confirmed that Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona did, in fact, attempt to file its final finance report on time, on January 15. Hobbs' spokesperson, C. Murphy Hebert, said a computer glitch prevented the submission of any campaign reports last week, and Steyer's PAC was one of eight filers affected. Hebert said the others were the Arizona Democratic Party, Pima County Democratic Party Committee, Future Now Fund, Chispa AZ PAC, American Family Insurance Arizona PAC, UNITE HERE Arizona, and the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association Alumni Political Involvement Committee.

click to enlarge Katie Hobbs, Arizona Secretary of State. - GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
Katie Hobbs, Arizona Secretary of State.
Gage Skidmore/Flickr
"There was a bug in our system that made it difficult for bulk filers to upload their filings," Hebert said. The Clean Energy PAC "did try to submit it."

Hobbs office sent letters today to the eight affected filers, giving them a new date of January 29 to file. Although a copy of the letter obtained by New Times states that a filing was rejected because of errors, Murphy said the "form letter" is not correct, and the state has no knowledge of filing errors by the group.

The state will also waive the fines for late filings for the Clean Energy group and other affected filers until the new deadline. PACs are normally levied a penalty of $10 a day for late filings up until 15 days after the deadline, and $25 a day after that, according to state law.

The clean-energy measure, which went down in a landslide 70-30 vote, would have required that certain Arizona utilities generate 50 percent of their electricity with renewable energy sources by 2030. In a year of expensive campaigns, Prop 127 set the record for the most spent in any state ballot election — and that was before the final tallies came in.

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, the PAC opposing Prop 127, spent nearly $38 million, its fourth-quarter 2018 report shows. The PAC made the filing on the deadline of January 15. Of that total, $32.3 million came from Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, the parent company of Arizona's largest utility, Arizona Public Service.

The Clean Energy PAC's last report on file with the state shows it spent slightly more than $23 million as of October 29. The secretary of state's office website says that the group's fourth-quarter report is "pending processing."

Neither Lines nor a GOP spokesperson returned messages seeking comment.

Cavalier said Clean Energy PAC intends to soon resubmit its fourth-quarter report, and also emailed New Times a copy of what it would be submitting.

The report she sent shows that Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona took in more than $671,000 from October 21 to December 31, adding to about $488,000 of cash it had not spent by mid-October. Most of that — $356,000 — was from another Steyer group, NextGen Climate Action. The Washington D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters kicked in another $100,000, and Anchorage, Alaska, resident George Donart gave $250.

The group reported total income for the campaign of $24.6 million as of December 31, and total expenditures of $24.5 million. NextGen Climate Action contributed $22.6 million of the total donations.

See below for the PAC's report that was obtained from Cavalier:

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern