PHOENIX — The Arizona Technology Council took its donation back from Gov. Jan Brewer’s political action committee after she used its cash to try to defeat a legislative candidate it supports.
Steven Zylstra, the council’s president and chief executive, said it came as a great surprise when Arizona’s Legacy, the governor’s political action committee, sent a mailer on behalf of state House hopeful Susan Syfert. The Safford Republican hopes to beat David Stevens or David Gowan, the two incumbent Republicans from Sierra Vista.
The Arizona Technology Council, which gave $6,000 to Arizona’s Legacy, actively supports Stevens.
“He has always been a supporter of our agenda,” Zylstra said. And rubbing salt into the wound was the state election law that required the mailing to specifically identify some of the funding came from his council.
“Since it was probably going to happen again ... we asked for our money back,” he said. Zylstra said the check already has arrived.
Brewer said that her decision to help Syfert should have come as no surprise to Zylstra or anyone else who has given money to Arizona’s Legacy.
“It went into a PAC,” she said. “I get to make the decisions.”
Zylstra acknowledged no one misled his council about where Brewer intended to use the cash.
Brewer has said from the beginning of Arizona’s Legacy that she wanted to elect Republicans who would continue her policies after she leaves office at the end of this year. That includes expansion of the state’s Medicaid program and support for the Common Core education standards.
In general, Zylstra said, his group aligns itself with politicians of the same stripe, though the council also supports Democrats, like Rep. Bruce Wheeler of Tucson, who have been supportive of its goals.
He said Stevens proved to be the exception to the rule.
“Stevens tends to be more conservative, obviously not the kind of person favorable to the issues the governor’s concerned about,” Zylstra said. But he said Stevens is the kind of person the council wants.
“He’s a technology guy,” Zylstra said, being a defense contractor. “He gets it.”
So when the mailing for Syfert went out with the council’s name on it Zylstra said it was a bit of a surprise.
“We thought we were doing the right thing in supporting the kind of people that were going to get down there and get things done, rather than resting on their ideology,” Zylstra said of the donation. “Sometimes, stuff like this happens.”
Brewer said it was a simple problem to resolve. “We were happy to give him back his money,” she said.
The mailing itself has caused a separate dust-up, with Stevens filing a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office accusing Brewer and Syfert of improper collusion.
Yellow Sheet, a political newsletter, reported that Syfert told a reporter the governor asked her what she could to do help the campaign. Syfert said she told the governor, “Where we were lean was on money for mailers.”
Arizona’s Legacy then reported spending $7,933 on Aug. 11 on mailings on Syfert’s behalf.
State election laws allow political action committees, like Arizona’s Legacy, to spend any amount of money on behalf of candidates. But the law also precludes any type of coordination of expenses between the candidate and the committee.
Brewer said no such coordination took place.
“On the phone when I interview or in person when I interview, never once do I say I’m going to endorse them at that time, nor do we talk about any kind of help,” the governor said. “I know exactly what the law says and I follow the law.”
Syfert refused to comment, with publicist Lisa James saying only there has been no coordination.
Kim Crawford, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said the complaint is under review.
State law would allow Arizona’s Legacy to contribute up to $2,000 to the campaign of any legislative candidate. But if there was any coordination of spending, any amount above that would be illegal and Arizona’s Legacy would be responsible for a fine of up to three times the excess.