Anti-Kari Lake ad likely violated election law, Clean Elections board finds; investigation authorized

This photo of an ad that said Kari Lake was soft on border issues was submitted in a complaint by an attorney with the Lake campaign to the Clean Elections Office in June.

By Richard Ruelas || Arizona Republic

Members of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission board decided Thursday that there was reason to believe a group that ran a TV ad claiming Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake was soft on the border violated election laws.

The 3-0 vote from the short-handed commission also authorized an investigation of Freedom’s Future Fund by the Clean Elections committee’s executive director, Tom Collins. Under state law, he would have subpoena power to conduct the inquiry.

The issue stems from ads that aired multiple times on television stations in Phoenix from February through June, including during broadcasts of the Olympics and the Phoenix Open. At the time, Lake had announced her intention to run for governor, but had not yet filed petition signatures to become an official candidate.

Lake has made border security a signature policy area of her campaign. In one of her ads, for example, she called for shooting down drones and bombing tunnels used by drug smugglers.

But, the Freedom’s Future Fund ad suggested she wanted lax border control because she donated money to President Barack Obama and not to President Donald Trump.

“How can we trust Kari Lake when she supported open border politicians?” the ad’s narrator asked.

Collins had reached a preliminary conclusion that the ad amounted to political advocacy. The meeting Thursday gave the appointed board members a chance to vote on whether to accept that conclusion.

One commissioner on the five-member board, Amy Chan, declared a conflict of interest in the matter. Another, Galen Paton, was absent due to illness.

Commissioners question rationale

An attorney for Freedom’s Future Fund, Charlie Spies, said during the meeting that the ad was intended to educate the public about Lake’s border position and urge the public to contact her and ask her to change her mind.

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