The Citizens Clean Elections Commission on Thursday threw out separate complaints alleging collusion between two gubernatorial candidates and independent groups trying to defeat their foes.
In one case, the panel found there was no evidence to conclude that a group which targeted Scott Smith was coordinated with Doug Ducey's own campaign. That commercial, paid for by the Legacy Foundation Action Fund, laid out links the U.S. Conference of Mayors with the positions taken by President Obama. Smith at the time was president of the organization.
Allies of Smith charged there was evidence of coordination, saying that one person who did work for Ducey was also involved in producing a commercial for the same outside organization in another state. But the commission concluded that any links, to the extent they existed, did not violate the law.
The panel also rejected claims by Ducey supporters that a commercial attacking their candidate's record when he ran Cold Stone Creamery was improperly coordinated with Smith's campaign. Their evidence was the fact that Randy Redd, a former franchise owner, appeared in a commercial produced by Better Leaders for Arizona and then turned up in a press release by the Smith campaign. Commission members decided, however, that Redd had not been in contact with the Smith campaign until after the commercial appeared.
The commission, however, left one legal issue unresolved: Whether the Legacy Foundation is violating other laws by failing to comply with campaign finance laws and report the cost of that commercial.
An attorney for the foundation contends it is not subject to those laws. He said the commercial was not designed to influence voters but simply a bid to educate voters about the positions the Conference of Mayors had taken on controversial issues while Smith was the organization's president.
Thomas Collins, the commission's executive director, acknowledged that the commercial never expressly told viewers how to mark their ballots. But he said the ad, which depicted Smith and the mayors' group agreeing with President Obama on things like the Affordable Care Act, gun control and climate change, clearly was designed to influence voters.
The commission has delayed action on that issue because the foundation has asked a judge to rule the commission has no authority over it. A hearing on that is set for next month.