Ariz. lawmakers want elected officials to disclose use of public funds - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Ariz. lawmakers want elected officials to disclose use of public funds

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Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 9:26 am

Elected officials that want to put their names and photos all over brochures, press releases, web sites, public service announcements and even billboards are going to have to ‘fess up if they're using public dollars to do it.

Without dissent, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure Monday placing new disclosure requirements on any types of announcements which are produced with public dollars. Put simply, if an elected official is mentioned, by name or photo, then the intended audience will know they helped pay for it.

"There have been problems in the past with people that have inappropriately used their position and public money to put their name and likeness out there,'' said Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City.

One of the most visible -- and the one that caused the biggest legislative outcry -- was when the Arizona Office of Tourism erected billboards all over the state in 2005 urging Arizonans to vacation within the state. And on each of those signs was the image and name of then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, who would be facing a reelection campaign the following year.

Napolitano said the move was justified.

"I'm the governor,'' she said at the time.

"We want to advertise the state, advertise things positive about the state, moving Arizona forward,'' Napolitano continued. "That's all there is to it.''

Gould said he would prefer a law that would ban such images. But when efforts to do just that faltered in previous years, he settled for the disclosure that public money was involved.

He said that won't stop the practice. But it might cause politicians to think twice.

"If it's legitimate, then they should have no problem putting that (disclosure) on there,'' Gould said.

The proposal, which needs Senate approval, requires disclosure to be "printed clearly and legibly in a conspicuous manner'' or, as appropriate, spoken over an audible medium.

Those who do not comply would be subject to a fine of up to three times the cost of producing and distributing the material.

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