At Least 24 Percent of Arizona Legislators Funded By 50 Percent or More PAC, Lobbyist Money

At Least 24 Percent of Arizona Legislators Funded By 50 Percent or More PAC, Lobbyist Money

By Corinne Murdock |

AZ Free News sampled 46 legislators’ latest campaign finance reports of the state legislature and found that 22 of 47 legislators sampled received 50 percent or more of their campaign contributions from either lobbyists or PACs. 

PACs and lobbyists have significant footing in the legislature. That would explain why the first week of January is known as “hell week” within the legislature — not because they’re in preparation for the new session kicking off, but because lobbyists are scrambling to fundraise for legislators. Arizona law prohibits legislators from receiving lobbyist campaign contributions while in regular session. 

The following are state legislators that receive 50 percent or more of their campaign funds from PACs and lobbyists combined: 

In the House, Richard Andrade (D-Glendale), about 51 percent; Ben Toma (R-Peoria), about 56 percent; Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), about 62 percent; Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), about 64 percent; John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), about 64 percent; Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa), about 64 percent; Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson), about 66 percent; Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear), about 74 percent; David Cook (R-Globe), about 75 percent; Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), about 79 percent; John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), about 83 percent; Tim Dunn (R-Yuma), about 87 percent; and Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley), about 96 percent. 

In the Senate, Vince Leach (R-Tucson), about 53 percent; T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge), about 56 percent;  David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), about 71 percent; Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita), about 73 percent; Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale), about 75 percent; Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), about 79 percent;  Tyler Pace (R-Mesa), about 82 percent; Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), about 90 percent; and David Livingston (R-Peoria), about 91 percent.

Of note, all of Gowan’s 32 contributions came from outside of his district — 28 came from Maricopa County. Additionally, $5,000 of Gowan’s $8,950 non-lobbyist contributions came from Phoenix Coyotes owner Alex Merulo.

Butler received over $10,000 from the Tucson branch of one of the largest labor unions in the country: the United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW). Her PAC contributions totaled $13,000, and $150 of her individual contributions were from lobbyists. There were several inactive lobbyist donors among the individual contributions totaling $250. In all, Butler’s total contributions were over $13,700.

Wilmeth’s ten non-lobbyist donors included three inactive lobbyists and one wife of an inactive lobbyist. 

Five legislators sampled reportedly received less than 10 percent of funds from PACs and lobbyists: Morgan Abraham, about 4 percent; Quang Nguyen, about 7 percent; Judy Burges, about 7 percent; Amish Shah, about 7 percent; and Joseph Chaplik, about 8 percent.

There were several legislators sampled that we couldn’t review because their reports haven’t been filed yet — even though they were due well over two months ago.

State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) still hasn’t filed her campaign finance report due April 15. Hernandez has been late consistently since her first year in office (2018), accruing $3,500 in fines altogether. Her latest campaign finance report, which she has yet to file, is 76 days late and she owed $1,675 currently — her highest single fine to date. It took Hernandez 69 extra days to file her 2021 cumulative finance report: it was due January 15, but she filed it March 25. 

Just over half of Hernandez’s individual donors from her last report, the cumulative one for 2021, were from out of state and made up the majority of those contributions: $5,980 versus the $3,920 from Arizona. Among them were several prominent figures in the Jewish community including acclaimed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha Wiesel, as well as Broadway star Jonah Platt.

State Senator Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) did file her report on time — but like Hernandez, over half of the individual contributors on her latest campaign finance report were from out of state. 

It appears that the Hernandez siblings are alike when it comes to campaign finance reports. Since the year his sister took office, Hernandez grew increasingly tardy with filing the reports. For two separate 2020 reports, he accrued over $5,100 in fines. His 2021 cumulative report was filed late by 67 days, and he was fined $1,450 for that. Both the Hernandez siblings are 76 days late on their first quarter report.

Another perennially tardy filer is State Representative César Chávez (D-Maryvale). Like Hernandez, he is 76 dates late and owes $1,675, but for his senate campaign’s first quarter report. Chávez was also late by 58 days to file his senate campaign’s 2021 cumulative report, owing $1,225. 

Similarly to Hernandez, Chávez has a history of late filings, the highest of which were 121 days late to file his 2020 pre-general election filing, 163 days late to file his 2016 pre-general election report, and 953 days late to file his 2016 first report for the fourth quarter and post-general election report.

One interesting campaign finance report came from State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff). The report totaled nearly 600 pages, with 586 dedicated to individual contributions alone that totaled nearly $360,000. No lobbyists could be discerned among the over 7,000 contributors, and over 1,600 of them were Arizonans. A vast majority were retired, nearly 4,500 of them, bolstered by the self-employed and small business owners.

Only one PAC donated to Rogers: the Save America PAC gave one contribution of $5,000 in January.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Arizona Democrats Push Election Overhaul: Mail-In, Harvested Ballots, Automatic Voter Registration

Arizona Democrats Push Election Overhaul: Mail-In, Harvested Ballots, Automatic Voter Registration

By Corinne Murdock |

One of the main agenda items for Arizona Democrats in the legislature appears to be major election reform.

Three bills introduced recently would check several of the boxes on the Biden Administration’s election reform checklist: allowing counties to conduct mail-in elections for all elections, lifting the prohibition on ballot harvesting, and establishing automatic voter registration for felons, respectively. None of the bills have appeared before a committee for consideration. 

The bill to expand mail-in elections, SB1149, was introduced by State Senator Sean Bowie (D-Chandler). There were seven cosponsors on the bill: State Senators Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita), Sally Ann Gonzales (D-Tucson), Lisa Otondo (D-Yuma), Raquel Terán (D-Phoenix), and Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson), along with State Representatives Jennifer Jermaine (D-Chandler), and Jennifer Pawlik (D-Chandler).

“A county may conduct a mail ballot election for any election administered by that county, including elections administered for federal and state offices and measures, and elections administered for that county and for a city, town, school district, or special district and for any other jurisdiction’s election administered by that county,” read the bill. “A countywide mail ballot election may be conducted only after a vote of approval by the county board of supervisors for that county and if sixty percent or more of the county’s registered voters are on the active early voting list prescribed by Section 16-544.”

Legalization of ballot harvesting, HB2094, was introduced by State Representative Athena Salman (D-Tempe), and gained six cosponsors: Andrés Cano (D-Tucson), Andrea Dalessandro (D-Sahuarita), Melody Hernandez (D-Tempe), Sarah Liguori (D-Phoenix), along with State Senators Juan Mendez (D-Tempe), and Terán.

The bill would strike all provisions related to intentional collection of voted or unvoted early ballots, and the class six felony that comes with that act.

The automatic voter registration legislation, HB2259, was introduced by State Senator Espinoza (D-) and gained Dalessandro and Solorio (D-) as cosponsors. The bill would automatically restore a felon’s right to vote upon conclusion of their probation or imprisonment. 

Legislature Republicans have responded in kind with their own legislation. In particular, State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) introduced three pieces of legislation to prohibit same-day voter registration, HB2237; to prohibit unmonitored ballot drop boxes for early-voted ballots, HB2238; and to require voter registration forms to include a statement notifying the registrant that their registration will be canceled if they permanently move to another state after registering to vote in Arizona, HB2243. All three bills passed through the House Government and Elections Committee narrowly on Wednesday, 7-6. Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen), Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson), Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), Christian Solorio (D-Phoenix), Jermaine, and Liguori voted against them. Judy Burges (R-Prescott), Frank Carroll (R-Sun City West), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Teresa Martinez (R-Oro Valley), Kevin Payne (R-Peoria), and John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) joined Hoffman in voting for his bills. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to