Candidates who don’t reveal campaign funders face fines in. But the biggest offenders pay the least

Arizona state Rep. César Chávez is still on the hook to the state for just under $4,000 in new fines for his latest late filings, including penalties now increasing by $25 per day for a campaign finance report due July 15 that he still hasn’t turned in./Flickr

By Ray Stern | The Arizona Republic

Arizona state Rep. César Chávez escaped paying $61,000 in fines for defying state laws that allow the public to know who has financed his political campaigns. But Arizona’s leniency didn’t cause him to comply any better this year.

Chávez kept from public view documents that showed who contributed to his 2022 state Senate campaign and how he spent the money, until about a week before the Aug. 2 primary election. That happened even as he avoided the five-digit penalty he had amassed over time for similar disclosure failures.

Chávez, a Democrat, lost his primary race to a political newcomer and won’t return to the Legislature next year. But he’s still on the hook to the state for just under $4,000 in new fines for his latest late filings, including penalties now increasing by $25 per day for a campaign finance report due July 15 that he still hasn’t turned in.

His case is a glaring example of a compliance system the Secretary of State’s Office previously acknowledged as “imperfect.”

It was tougher on violators like Chávez a few years ago, when failing to pay late fees for not filing one campaign finance report meant a candidate couldn’t submit another one.

These days, savvy users get a break. Overall, the state takes in a small amount of money annually from people who make minor errors and incur small fees, while at the same time waives an average of $100,000 a year for people and entities who comply the least and who accrue the most late fees.

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