PHOENIX — The Arizona Democratic Party filed suit Thursday to keep the No Labels Party off the 2024 ballot, conceding it fears its presence “will make it more difficult to elect Democratic Party candidates.”
Legal papers filed in Maricopa County Superior Court cite what the Democrats say are a series of legal flaws in the petitions filed with Secretary of State Adrian Fontes seeking certification and ballot access. That includes everything from wording discrepancies in the paperwork to allegations that people were attesting to signatures on those petitions before others had actually signed the papers.
But there’s a larger legal issue.
According to attorney Roy Herrera, the No Labels Party is organized under a section of the Internal Revenue Code as a “social welfare” organization. That, the lawsuit says, limits the amount of money it can spend on political purposes.
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What that IRS status also means, Herrera said, is that the No Labels Party is not required to disclose its contributors, a requirement that exists in state law for other recognized political parties in Arizona.
“To date, No Labels has not publicly disclosed its donors, leaving the sources of much of its funding largely unknown,” the lawsuit states. “Nor has No Labels publicly identified the donors behind the initiative to have it certified as a political party in Arizona, despite federal laws requiring political party committees spending more than $5,000 to influence a federal election to identify their donors in filings with the Federal Election Commission.”
The organization, founded in 2009, has the stated goal of combating the “polarized political climate” that has led to the most prominent voices “often found the farthest from the center.” More to the point, it has made it clear it could be a force in future elections.
Its website says it is creating what it called an “insurance plan that would allow a Unity ticket to run in 2024 if the two parties select unreasonably divisive presidential nominees,” terms it does not define.
That could have implications for Democrat Joe Biden if he decides to seek another term, particularly in Arizona. He only narrowly edged out Donald Trump by 10,457 votes in 2020.
The political threat to Arizona Democrats is amplified by the decision by Sen. Krysten Sinema to leave the party.
Sinema filed to run for reelection in 2024. If she were to run for reelection in 2024 under the No Labels banner, she would need fewer signatures to qualify for the ballot than as an independent.
And having Sinema on the ballot could draw votes away from Ruben Gallego or whoever wins the Democratic primary, a move that could aid the Republican nominee.
In a prepared statement, Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels, blasted the legal filing.
“This undemocratic and outrageous lawsuit is a disgrace,” he said. And he took a slap at the Arizona Democratic Party for going to court to keep his organization off the ballot.
“Next time you hear this crowd talking about protecting democracy, remember what they are really doing is protecting their turf,” Clancy said.
On the legal side, David Rosenbaum, an attorney with the Osborn Maledon law firm in Phoenix, said he is confident the trial court will uphold the decision by Fontes to certify No Labels as a political party in Arizona.
“The professional staff in the Secretary of State’s Office already thoroughly reviewed No Labels’ filing and certified it,” he said in his own statement.
There was no comment about the claim that money is being raised without disclosure of the donors.
The lawsuit says No Labels has raised about $50 million to secure ballot access as a political party in at least 10 states.
With Fontes’ certification — assuming it is not overturned by the courts — No Labels became the fourth party certified for ballot status along with Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians. The Green Party lost its certification because it did not get at least 5% of the vote in the last gubernatorial election and did not submit sufficient signatures to retain its ballot status.
No Labels already has qualified for the ballot in Oregon, Alaska and Colorado.
On Twitter: @azcapmedia