Official clears Arizona governor of electioneering claims

In this Nov. 4, 2014, file photo, Arizona then-Republican candidate for Attorney General Mark Brnovich talks to supporters at the Republican election night party in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

The Arizona attorney general has ruled that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey did not violate state law when he encouraged small business owners to vote no on a ballot measure calling for a tax surcharge on high-earners to boost education funding.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich said his office closed its investigation and won’t take any further action, the Arizona Capitol Times reported Monday.

Ducey was accused of electioneering by using state resources while on a phone call in his office with state employees in September. But Deputy Solicitor General Michael Catlett found that the purpose of the call was to discuss the state of the economy as it related to the pandemic.

Invest in Education, the organization that filed the complaint, did not provide any evidence that Ducey “expended additional resources because the Governor responded to a question from a constituent about his views on a matter of public concern,” Catlett said. The resources would have been used regardless of his response on the ballot proposition.

Proposition 208 imposes a 3.5% tax surcharge on earnings above $250,000 for single persons or married persons filing separately, or $500,000 for married persons filing jointly or heads of households, to increase funding for public education. It was approved in November with 51.5% of the vote.

Ducey, during a call with business leaders, encouraged them to vote against the measure and go to the No on 208 website to get more information. The governor’s office denied that Ducey had broken any law about using public resources to influence the outcome of an election.

The attorney general’s office also referenced a 2015 opinion explaining that elected officials should not be exempt from expressing views on matters of public policy.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.