Judge slaps down Bennett’s bid for campaign reimbursement
PHOENIX — A judge has slapped down the latest bid by Ken Bennett to get public financing for his failed gubernatorial bid — or at least reimburse himself for the money he spent.
In a new ruling, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders acknowledged that Bennett said he really did have enough valid signatures on $5 donation forms to qualify for $839,704, which was available for candidates in the Republican primary for governor earlier this year.
Bennett said that he fell short only because some county election officials incorrectly classified some of the signatures as invalid. More to the point, he said he could prove that with things like affidavits from some of those disqualified donors to push him up over the top.
But Sanders said that really doesn’t matter.
The judge said there is nothing in Arizona law that provides an opportunity for a candidate to “rehabilitate’’ previously disqualified contribution slips. Put simply, Sanders said there is no legal remedy for him.
Bennett, however, told Capitol Media Services he is unlikely to leave it there and is weighing an appeal.
He conceded that there is, in fact, no law specifically authorizing what he hopes to accomplish, or even any legal precedent. But that, he said, does not mean what he wants is prohibited either.
Arizona law allows candidates for statewide and legislative office who agree not to take private donations to qualify for state dollars for their campaigns. Contenders also have to submit sufficient $5 contributions from backers to prove they have at least some modicum of support.
In the case of a gubernatorial candidate, that figure is 4,000.
Bennett, seeking to defeat incumbent Doug Ducey in the Republican gubernatorial primary, did not reach that goal by the deadline. But he convinced Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes to give him more time after the online site for contributions was shut down several hours early.
That enabled him to reach the goal. But a random check of the contributions concluded some were invalid, leaving him short.
That resulted in this new lawsuit contending that the county officials had erred and asking that he be given a chance to prove that the signatures they disqualified are legitimate.
Sanders said there are procedures in state regulations for someone who has come up short to provide additional qualifying contribution slips.