Taxpayers could wind up footing bill for Pearce's recall campaign, win or lose

2011-08-17T00:00:00Z Taxpayers could wind up footing bill for Pearce's recall campaign, win or loseHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
August 17, 2011 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Arizona taxpayers could end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Senate President Russell Pearce keep his office.

And it will not matter whether he wins or loses the recall election.

A provision in the Arizona Constitution requires the Legislature to enact laws necessary to a recall election, including "provision for payment by the public treasury of the reasonable special election campaign expenses of such officer."

State Elections Director Amy Bjelland said the provision is not self-enacting. She said it would require an actual vote by lawmakers.

What that means, she said, is that, once the election is over, legislators get to decide if they want to pick up the tab for Pearce's expenses.

Candidates in the recall election are eligible for public funds from the state's Clean Elections fund. But that would limit their campaigns to $21,533 - far less than the campaigns are expected to cost.

Pearce said, in general, he is opposed to using public funds for elections.

He said, though, his particular case should be an exception.

"It's not something I created or caused," he said.

Pearce said it would be one thing if voters were seeking to oust him because of some improper behavior, referring to incidents involving members of Congress who have been linked to sex scandals unrelated to their jobs.

"In my case, simply, they don't like what I've accomplished," he said, and they didn't want to wait until next year's regular election to try to replace him.

Pearce said he suspects that's behind the provision for the state to cover his campaign costs, because a minority of voters have the ability to force a special election.

Pearce said there already has been a lot of money spent. Much of that has been for supporters to hire attorney Lisa Hauser, who is challenging the sufficiency of the recall petitions in a bid to short-circuit the election.

Earlier this week she asked the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Hugh Hegyi, who concluded that recall organizers had acted within the law and the scheduled Nov. 8 election can proceed. Late Tuesday, however, the justices said the case must first be heard by the state Court of Appeals, a move that will delay the final resolution of the issue.

The other significant legal question is what happens if the Legislature pays Pearce's expenses but he already had raised the money. Pearce pointed out that lawmakers are entitled to bank unused campaign contributions, meaning it could be set aside for a 2012 race.

On StarNet: Read more about local, state and national political news at azstarnet.com/politics

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