Katie Hobbs, Mark Brnovich spat widens to include state Rep. Mark Finchem

Ronald J. Hansen
Arizona Republic
State Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, a candidate for Arizona secretary of state, points from the press viewing area, as Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona Senate in an audit at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on May 11, 2021.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs' office has suggested an investigation of a Republican state lawmaker over his fundraising after Attorney General Mark Brnovich noted her office had made no election-related referrals to his.

The election director under Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor, pointed Brnovich, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, to state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, who is running to replace Hobbs.

The letter from Sambo Dul, state elections director for Hobbs, also shot back at Brnovich for noting that Hobbs had dropped Arizona from a multistate database known as Crosscheck. That database was intended to help identify whether anyone had voted in more than one place in the same election.

"Arizona was one of 12 states to leave Crosscheck — primarily because the program created more false matches and voter privacy concerns than it did reliable data — before it was ultimately shuttered just months later in December 2019," Dul wrote.

"Doubtless, your mention of the Secretary’s decision to leave this program was a good faith misunderstanding on your part and not an attempt to imply malfeasance." 

A spokesman for Brnovich could not immediately be reached for comment.

The spat grows out of Hobbs' response to a July 5 report in The Arizona Republic that detailed the efforts by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies to persuade Maricopa County officials to "stop the counting" of ballots while the 2020 election tally was ongoing.  

Hobbs asked Brnovich to probe the matter, putting political heat on Brnovich to investigate Trump, whose endorsement could prove pivotal in the Senate primary that has at least four contenders.

In a letter back to Hobbs last week, Brnovich acknowledged he intends to examine public records relating to the pressure campaign detailed by The Republic. He also asked Hobbs for potential evidence of illegal voting.

The Finchem matter also has political overtones.

Finchem raised money to defray the costs of a daylong hearing he hosted Nov. 30 in Phoenix in which Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, outlined an array of election conspiracies intended to cast doubt on the Arizona results being certified that day.

In February, Finchem solicited the money for Make Arizona Precincts Sound, a political-action committee, on social media and directed people to give directly to his bank accounts using Venmo and PayPal.

Finchem said on social media that he raised about $10,000 within 12 hours that way.

But it violated Arizona laws against mixing personal and PAC funds, according to an April complaint to Hobbs' office by the Campaign for Accountability.

Finchem said Wednesday that he had not seen the referral to Brnovich's office. In his written response in May, Finchem denied any wrongdoing involving the PAC money.

“I categorically deny that I committed any violations of campaign finance laws as erroneously alleged," Finchem wrote. "Second, at no point concerning the referenced appeals to donors, did I commingle any PAC funds with personal funds. In short, the Complaint is fallacious.” 

The PAC indicated it received all the money Finchem had raised for it.

But the Campaign for Accountability responded that state law doesn't allow convenience exceptions for fundraising, and while the PAC got its money, there are still unanswered questions.

"Left unsaid is when these Finchem-solicited contributions were deposited into the MAPS bank account and whether they were transferred to MAPS from Representative Finchem’s personal Venmo and PayPal accounts," the Campaign wrote.

Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at ronald.hansen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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