The head of the Pima County Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Martha McSally, arguing her campaign staff failed to file disclosure documents related to a recent poll.
The complaint centers on an internal poll that showed McSally was tied with Kelli Ward among Republican voters in a hypothetical race to replace Senator Jeff Flake next year. A Nov. 27 article in Politico discusses the details.
The complaint argues that the cost of the poll would trigger a mandatory disclosure for any expense that above $5,000 — something that the McSally campaign has failed to do.
However, the FEC has specific exemption for candidates testing the waters for future political runs, notes, Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the McSally campaign.
The FEC even outlines a similar scenario on its website that details the exemption.
“An individual may want to conduct polls or travel around the state or district to see if there is sufficient support for his or her candidacy. An individual who merely tests the waters, but does not campaign for office, does not have to register or report to the FEC. This is the case even if the individual exceeds the usual $5,000 candidate registration threshold,” the federal agency explains on its website.
The McSally campaign dismissed the complaints as a partisan attack.
“This is a politically motivated, frivolous complaint that has no legal merit, and I have no doubt will be quickly dismissed by the FEC," said Jim Tyrrell, a McSally campaign advisor who has previously worked for the Chairman of the FEC.
“Arizona Democrats are clearly in panic mode and are desperate because they know they have weak candidates who are out-of-touch with Arizona families,” said Bozek.
But Democrats note that poll was put out weeks after Rep. David Schweikert told reporters that McSally had told him and other colleagues that she was going to run for the Senate seat.
“It is inconceivable that Representative McSally did not either raise or spend $5,000 in support of her candidacy for Senate by November 15th at the latest, triggering the requirement to file her Statement of Candidacy within fifteen days, or by November 30, 2017. Representative McSally has not filed this form with the Commission," the complaint written by Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jo Holt says.
The executive director for the Arizona Democratic Party, Herschel Fink, says it is latest example of McSally’s campaign ignoring FEC rules.
“While Congresswoman Martha McSally and her Washington consultants were trying to chase GOP base voters, she forgot to do the basic work that’s needed to be a candidate for Senate,” said Fink. “McSally’s repeated campaign violations should be a red flag to voters as it proves that she would rather regurgitate the partisan talking points that have folks fed up with Washington than actually represent Arizonans.”
Fred Solop, a political science professor at Northern Arizona University and well-known pollster, said it will be interesting to see how the FEC responds.
On one hand, a statewide poll designed to measure name recognition and popularity among likely Republican voters demonstrates a high degree of political sophistication and planning.
However, he said, the FEC does allow for would-be candidates to test the waters without having to formally file with the federal agency.