The Citizens Clean Elections Commission is investigating whether State Attorney General Tom Horne broke any campaign laws. Horne filed a suit Thursday to stop that investigation. Tom Collins, Executive Director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, will talk about the suit.
Ted Simons: Speaking of Tom Horne, the attorney general has filed suit to stop an investigation by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. That investigation is looking into claims that Horne broke campaign laws. Joining us now is Tom Collins, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Good to have you here, thank you so much for joining us. We should mention again we are working with you to put on these statewide debates for state offices and such.
Tom Collins: That's correct.
Ted Simons: Attorney general filed suit to stop this investigation. Your initial thoughts?
Tom Collins: Well, I think that, you know, we've looked at this matter, the commission had a vote in front of it about two weeks ago about whether or not to initiate an inquiry and that was based on a recommendation that I made and the commission has a rule that says before I go forward with anything in terms of an investigation with a candidate who's not part of the public financing system that I should go to them and ask them for authorization. That's what we did. It was a procedural vote by the commission, and now, the attorney general has brought a suit to stop that inquiry from going forward.
Ted Simons: And the suit claims that which commission does not have authority over non-clean election candidates.
Tom Collins: That is the upshot of Mr. Horne's complaint and the complaint that his attorneys have filed. That's an issue that the commission clearly stated its position on and the statute itself is plain. The voters wanted a clean elections system that included independent campaign enforcement by the clean elections commission. The statute is very plain and if it wasn't plain enough, the Arizona Supreme Court in a 2004 case said that the duty to do enforcement is a paramount duty that does not relate to public financing and so the commission is simply following the statute and the Supreme Court has confirmed what that statute's plain language is.
Ted Simons: The lawsuit also claims that this is not a campaign finance issue and thus clean elections should not have authority over the situation. Your thoughts?
Tom Collins: Well, again I think that this is a preliminary -- we're at a preliminary stage where we're outlining the nature of what the allegations of the complaint are and I've outlined the response. Mr. Horne's had an opportunity to respond to the commission and the commission voted to go forward. He'll have an opportunity to make any number of legal arguments procedurally throughout the process. There's judicial and administrative review. The fact of the matter is that the clean elections act sets forth the law that's applicable to candidates whether they take public financing or not and that law involves reporting and it involves limits, it involves those kinds of things that are involved in the allegations and that's the substance of our recommendation.
Ted Simons: You mentioned reporting and limits. Again, the suit claims that what you're investigating, the claims especially by the former worker Sarah Beattie, nothing to do with clean elections, the commission itself, nothing to do with what the commission has authority to look at. Again, your response.
Tom Collins: Well, I think -- I just disagree. And I can say I disagree because I've written this recommendation, the commission has unanimously endorsed going forward with the inquiry. I guess what I would say to folks, though, is that the facts are not out yet. We have an inquiry going. We are moving forward in a manner that will ensure that we get the facts and allow the commission to make a deliberate decision, which is subject to its own set of judicial and administrative appeals. So I guess the answer to that question is I don't know what the facts are yet because we haven't established them. We have a recommendation I've written based on the response Mr. Horne provided to the complaint and under that set of facts, there is certainly sufficient evidence and sufficient legal basis, the legal basis is clear that there's a clean election act issue. The question is how it resolves itself is before us.
Ted Simons: What about now, this new law that only the secretary of state and the attorney general can investigate those who are running with private funds. Where does that new law come into play here?
Tom Collins: It's an important thing, that there's been a lot of misinformation about. And what I will tell you about it is this Is that the legislature amended that bill in order to pass it in the first place. They had to amend it to narrow it to exclude article two of chapter six in title 16. Now that's a very complicated sounding sentence, but it's actually a simple concept. That's the clean elections act. In other words, in order for this bill to pass, it had to exclude the clean elections act and therefore, make it relatively ineffective. I don't know what the sponsor thinks he was doing. What I can tell you is that the plain language of the bill and the clear language of the clean elections act when you put them together, there is simply no impact on the commission's authority to move forward with this inquiry.
Ted Simons: So even though the -- it's not supposed to be retroactive here, and I think it goes into effect July 24th or something.
Tom Collins: All bills do.
Ted Simons: You're saying that this does not affect what you are doing or should not affect what you are doing?
Tom Collins: That is correct. The commissioners have sworn a duty to uphold the Constitution and they've sworn a duty to enforce the act. The act was not affected in any -- at all by the bill and that's because the bill distinguishes between article one of chapter six and article two. I hate to go back to that, something that sounds so technical but it is incredibly important that these words mean what they say. And just as a legal matter, titles are made of chapters, which themselves are made of articles. So if you say don't do article one to a group that is enforcing article two, it's not meaningful and that's what our position is. And I think that's clear.
Ted Simons: You're saying there's cherry picking going on there?
Tom Collins: The bill, in order to get it through the legislature they amended it to narrow it and then when it passed, some sponsors of this bill came forward and said oh, we really did restrict the clean elections restriction. Well you can't do both. You can't both amend a bill like they did to narrow it and then when it passes say aha, it did what we were saying the whole time.
Ted Simons: Has clean elections ever removed a privately funded elected official from office?
Tom Collins: No.
Ted Simons: Has clean elections ever fined a privately funded elect official in office?
Tom Collins: That's a good question. I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I can say that the commission has fined nonparticipating candidates. The most famous example was Matt salmon back in 2002, which a lot of folks may still remember. There was a fine levied in that case. I can't recall the exact resolution but there was a vote to fine him as far back as then. This has been something that the commission has been doing since its inception. So it's simply false to say that the commission has never enforced against a nonparticipating candidate.
Ted Simons: So what's next in all this?
Tom Collins: Well, the commission will move forward. We'll move forward with our inquiry in an effective manner that is not going to be -- and at the same time, this lawsuit's been filed. There's a scheduling conference on Friday, and then there will be a briefing scheduled. Probably this won't be fully briefed before the first week of August as things worked out generally. That's my prediction but in the meantime, the commission is taking the steps, me and my staff are taking the steps necessary to ensure that we get the facts that are necessary to develop a recommendation if there is one to be made at this point.
Ted Simons: Alright, good to have you here, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
Tom Collins: Thank you.
Tom Collins:Executive Director, Citizens Clean Elections Commission;