By Daniel Stefanski |
Legislation to separate election officials from political action committees is working its way through the Arizona Legislature, though receiving mixed signals from Democrats on their support for the proposal.
HB 2378, sponsored by Representative Leo Biasiucci, “prohibits the Secretary of State, a member of a county board of supervisors, a county recorder or any other officer in charge of elections, or their employee, from being a chairperson, treasurer or other member of a political action committee (PAC),” according to the purpose provided by the Arizona Senate.
The bill passed the House Committee on Municipal Oversight & Elections (MOE) back in January, receiving a unanimous and bipartisan vote of 10-0. It later cleared the House Rules Committee with a 5-3 vote. On the House floor, Biasiucci’s legislation gained 49 votes in support, and only 11 votes in opposition.
After HB 2378 made it past the House MOE Committee in January, bill sponsor, Representative Biasiucci, tweeted: “My bill, HB 2378, just passed the House Municipal Oversight and Elections Committee 10-0. Republicans and Democrats agree, you shouldn’t be involved in a PAC if you also oversee any significant aspect of election operations.”
Representative Austin Smith also celebrated the bill’s approval by the House MOE Committee, writing, “An individual who is an elections officer or employee who oversees any significant aspect of election’s operations may not serve on a PAC board.”
Earlier this month, HB 2378 was heard in the Senate Elections Committee and received more opposition from Democrats there than in the House – perhaps predicting a frostier reception to the policy if and when it arrives on the Senate floor for a vote. Democrat Senator Anna Hernandez explained that she believed “this bill is overly broad” when casting her vote against the legislation in committee. Fellow Democrat Senator Juan Mendez complained that HB 2378 was “only a symbolic measure,” and Democrat Senator Priya Sundareshan said that “this seems to be a particular measure to punish a particular someone in an intraparty dispute.”
Senator Sundareshan’s comments were a veiled reference to Republican Maricopa County Recorder, Stephen Richer, who, in late 2021, formed a political action committee named Pro-Democracy Republicans of Arizona. The PAC posts its mission on its website: “The Arizona election wasn’t stolen. We Republicans simply had a presidential candidate who lost, while we had many other candidates who won. It’s time we Republicans accept and acknowledge that fact. Candidates come and go. But our democratic institutions are long-lasting, and peaceful transitions of power are a hallmark of the United States. We should not abandon this history in favor of conspiracy theorists and demagoguery. To that end, we are launching this PAC to support pro-democracy Arizona Republicans. We hope you will join us. We will win some races. We will lose some races. But either way, we will be strengthening the processes that have long undergirded Arizona and the United States.”
Richer’s creation of this PAC, while serving as Maricopa County’s top election official, angered many Republicans during the 2022 election cycle.
Senate Elections Chair, Senator Wendy Rogers, cast her vote in support of the bill, arguing, “If someone is in a position to influence the outcome of an election, thank you Rep Biasiucci for calling out the need to separate that kind of person from a PAC which is brought together to assert influence as well.”
HB 2378 awaits a vote in the Arizona Senate.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.