NoDDC responds to myriad campaign finance violation determinations

Political tactics in Scottsdale have been boiled down to the pursuit of vandalizing political campaign signs, uncivil dialogue and digital attacks on social media. (Submitted photo)

The city of Scottsdale has determined the grassroots organization coined NoDDC Inc. violated three state statutes regulating how political dollars can be spent to influence the outcome of an election.

Through a legal interpretation conducted by City Clerk Carolyn Jagger and confirmed by City Attorney Bruce Washburn, the NoDDC movement violated three rules meant to corral the political influence of dollars and cents.

NoDDC — officially referred to as NoDDC Inc. — started as an anonymous digital entity in late 2016, aspired to reshape Scottsdale politics and matured into a nonprofit entity. Today, it is registered as a political action committee.

The NoDDC entity appears to have violated these campaign finance laws:

  • Arizona Revised Statute 16-905 by failing to register prior to expenditures as a political action committee;
  • Arizona Revised Statute 16-916 by using nonprofit (c)4 dollars prior to filing as a political action committee and making expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, identified candidates in the Nov. 6 general election; and
  • Arizona Revised Statute 16-925 by not including financial disclosures on a website where solicitations occurred.

On Sept. 17, Kory Langhofer, who is managing attorney at Statecraft, filed campaign finance complaints with the city of Scottsdale against the nonprofit entities of NoDDC, Protect Our Preserve, and the political action committee also called Protect Our Preserve.

For clarification: the Protect Our Preserve PAC — and now NoDDC PAC — can collect campaign contributions, while the non-profit Protect Our Preserve entity cannot.

Scottsdale City Attorney Bruce Washburn, who oversees the legal proceedings of the West’s Most Western Town. (File photo)

The original legal filing was made on behalf of “Paula Sturgeon-Mortensen,” citing several financial disclosure mistakes over recent months.

Mr. Washburn, in his Oct. 15 letter to NoDDC legal representation — Daniel Arellano of Philadelphia-based Ballard Spahr — agreed with the findings of the city clerk resulting from the Sept. 17 campaign finance violation filing.

“Upon reviewing Ms. Jagger’s report and its supporting materials, I have determined that I agree with her analysis and that the violations listed above have occurred,” he said. “The penalty imposed is the presumptive civil penalty of an amount equal to the value or amount of any money that has been received, spent or promised in connection with any of these violations.”

On Monday, Oct. 22 Mr. Arellano responded to a request for documentation to asses the pending fines, however, as of Oct. 23 no penalties have been assessed.

“I have not yet had a chance to review the response, so I am not presently in a position to make a determination on the penalties,” Mr. Washburn told the Independent on Oct. 22. “There is not a fixed date by which the penalty issue has to be resolved.”

In his response letter, Mr. Arellano contends the violations were done inadvertently.

“I can assure you that each of the violations was inadvertent,” he said of the actions of his client, Jason Alexander. “Despite his committed advocacy, Mr. Alexander was unfamiliar with the (often exacting) requirements of campaign finance law. No violation of campaign finance law was made willfully.”

Mr. Arellano contends, on behalf of his client, the finance violations can be remedied by the actions outlined in his Oct. 22 response letter.

In regard to failing to register as a political action committee prior to spending of funds, Mr. Arellano reports Mr. Alexander filed a committee statement of organization on Friday, Oct. 5.

The political factions on both sides of Prop. 420 continue to tattle on one another regarding what they believe to be disrespectful behavior. (Submitted photo)

In regard to using corporate monies in support of, or against, an identified candidate in the Nov. 6 election, Mr. Arellano reports, the Citizen United ruling, in this case, allows those expenditures to be made as long as they are independent and no evidence of coordination can be found between an agent of the PAC and NoDDC Inc.

“Arizona law prohibits corporations from making contributions to candidates,” Mr. Arellano said in his response letter. “But the election code makes clear that ‘any person may make independent expenditures.’ An independent expenditure is one that is made by a noncandidate and that both ‘expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate,’ and ‘is not made in cooperation or consultation with or at the request or suggestion of the candidate or the candidate’s agent.’”

In its 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, the United States Supreme Court confirmed corporations are people and have the same rights as human beings to express its First Amendment right to political speech.

Mr. Arellano says, he believes, Arizona Revised Statute 16-922(c) was not violated.

“While NoDDC has reposted materials from candidate’s websites, these materials are independently shared from candidates’ publicly available websites and social media pages,” he said. “Arizona law does not prohibit corporations from sharing publicly available candidate materials where there has been no coordination with the candidate.”

Mr. Arellano says the same situation applies to distribution of campaign signs and literature.

“Again, there is no evidence that NoDDC has distributed campaign signs or literature at the behest of any candidate, and Mr. Alexander denies any such communication,” he said. “In any event, having volunteers post candidate yard signs or distribute campaign literature during canvasses is not an expenditure.”

In response to the violation of NoDDC proponents not disclosing stipulations for seeking solicitations on their website, Mr. Arellano reports, the NoDDC website now offers this disclaimer: “Paid for by NoDDC PAC. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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