Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recalls and Campaign Reimbursements -- Arizona may have to pay Pearce's campaign expenses

Another twist in the recall Arizona Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce. Arizona has a state law that allows elected officials to seek reimbursements for the recall campaign expenses. The law is a bit unclear. It appears that it covers the expense regardless of whether Pearce would win or lose. And according to the State Elections Director, it would require a vote of the legislature.

This may seem like an unusual provision, but it is certainly not rare. California has a similar law, as does Colorado. As noted in The Recall by Joseph Zimmerman, Colorado's Attorney General did rule that an official is not entitled to reimbursement if an election is not held. Both states have only a "pay if you win" provision. According to Bird & Ryan's The Recall of Public Officials, at one point San Francisco had such a law and then repealed it in 1916.

We have two noteworthy examples of this provision in California:
During the Gray Davis recall, there was a debate on whether Davis could eventually seek reimbursement if he won -- a price tag that might hit $20 million. There is some question of what qualifies as a reimbursable expenses -- specifically, must it be personal expenses that came directly out of Davis' pocket or could it just be expenses paid for by campaign funds.

After California Senator Mike Machado triumphed in his end of the recall battles of 1995 (Machado, a Democrat, was being recalled because he voted for Democrat Willie Brown for Speaker of the Assembly), Machado sought reimbursement of $89,000 in expenses. Machado's reimbursement request was denied by the State Board of Control and he did not pursue it further.

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