PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer is building up a political war chest to help influence who controls the Legislature for the next two years — and potentially who succeeds her.
New campaign finance reports show Brewer has collected more than $740,000 in her Arizona’s Legacy political action committee. Even after fundraising expenses, that leaves her with $635,000 in the bank.
And she’s continuing to raise money.
Brewer’s PAC operates as an independent expenditure committee, allowing her to collect and spend unlimited amounts to influence any statewide or legislative elections she wants.
The only restriction is the governor cannot coordinate her spending with the candidates she supports.
“We’re just gathering up our dollars and getting ready to expend them,” Brewer said.
The governor insisted she has not made specific decisions on who will benefit from her financial largesse.
But she did say she hopes to elect “good Republicans,” meaning those “that believe the same things I believe in.”
That has most visibly taken the form of the handful of Republicans who broke with party leadership last year and joined with the minority Democrats to vote to expand the state’s Medicaid program, largely by tapping into funds from the federal Affordable Care Act.
Many of them are facing primary challenges specifically because of that vote, making them vulnerable. Brewer’s money, poured into a last-minute “robocall” or mailer, could make a crucial difference.
Time could be running out for Brewer to make that difference: Early voting begins in four weeks. But the governor said she will make her expenditures “in time to make a difference.”
Some GOP lawmakers are also targets because of their support for the Common Core education standards.
Foes have argued that the standards amount to allowing the federal government to take over local education decisions.
But Brewer has been a strong supporter, pointing out that the standards were crafted by the National Governors Association, not some federal agency.
She has said the standards are necessary to ensure students in Arizona schools learn what they need to learn to be able to go on to college or get a job on high school graduation.
The link to those issues is reinforced by the fact that Brewer got a $60,000 donation from the Arizona Business Coalition.
That group was set up by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry to back business-friendly candidates. But its focus lately has been on politically protecting those who supported Medicaid expansion and Common Core.
Brewer said she is not sure whether any of her funds will go toward supporting one of the six Republicans who are running for governor. And she insisted she has not made a final decision on who, if any, will get her blessing — and perhaps her money.
“The bottom line is I still have some meetings with some other candidates in regards to the gubernatorial race,” Brewer said. “I will make my endorsement as soon as I feel comfortable with the person that I’m going to put my name behind.”