Trump-endorsed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake filed a complaint this week with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich against Gov. Doug Ducey for using a state government helicopter to fly her opponent Karrin Taylor Robson back from a campaign event he hosted with Robson.
The complaint letter from Lake’s attorney Tim La Sota stated, “The state airplane is not a shuttle service that can be rented out by wealthy politicians when the private jet they normally use is unavailable. And the Governor has no power under the law to permit such effective rental agreements to those he favors politically. Surely after over a decade in public office he must know this.”
La Sota cited A.R.S. 16-192, which states that public resources may not be used “to influence an election,” and specifically lists “vehicles.” He referenced a video from July 22 showing Ducey inviting Robson after a campaign event in Marana with former Vice President Mike Pence to board the plane to fly back to Phoenix with him.
La Sota stated that apparently Robson used the state plane because her own plane was being used to fly Pence to Nevada. He alluded to other possible lawbreaking, “That private jet is the source of other potential campaign finance violations. That private jet has been reported at times as the ‘Robson family jet’ but it is apparently owned by a limited liability company. But those matters are not addressed in this letter.”
The penalty is up to a $5,000 fine, plus the value of the public resource used. La Sota acknowledged that Ducey’s office has said Robson will reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the plane. However, La Sota requested a fine too, “given the gravity and the brazenness of the offense. The Governor is not above the law, and neither are his favored political candidates.” The distance is approximately 94 miles from Marana to Phoenix.
An investigation by 3TV/CBS 5 found the campaign hadn’t reported a single use of the jet in its campaign finance reports, even though it had been used to travel to a number of campaign related events. Additionally, local attorney Tom Ryan, who practices election law, said that LLCs are prohibited from donating to campaigns.
Robson, who is married to a billionaire, has raised eyebrows by using her jet to fly short distances instead of driving. According to Raw Story, she flew in her jet from Scottsdale to Glendale, approximately 20 miles before flying to Marana. A jet like Robson’s costs around $11 million and costs on average around $600,000 a year to maintain.
Robson’s spokesperson Matthew Benson said Robson will pay the cost of the flight and report it as an in-kind contribution. Robson dismissed the incident, telling radio talk show host Mike Broomhead, “It’s a nonissue. It’s just a distraction. [Lake] doesn’t want people focused on her record. Of course, we will reimburse the state.”
During a radio interview, Lake blasted Ducey. “It’s totally unconscionable that our governor — think about this — our Governor Doug Ducey is doing absolutely nothing on the border while we’re overrun by drugs, cartels, and people are flooding in,” she said. “He’s doing nothing to protect us. He’s putting more energy into trying to defeat this amazing movement we have, of we the people in Arizona, in order to get his RINO friend in office. He’s put more energy into that than I’ve seen him put energy into anything in seven and a half years.”
UH OH: Doug Ducey in trouble for using Taxpayer Funded Jet to campaign for Karrin Taylor Robson
The @KariLake campaign has filed an official complaint with the Attorney General for illegal use of state resources. Swift action must be taken by @GeneralBrnovich. Very unethical! pic.twitter.com/CVhScjJFd0
— Kari Lake for AZ Governor (@KariLake) July 28, 2022
While Pence and Ducey have been campaigning for Robson, Trump has been campaigning for Lake, causing some to characterize the race as Trump versus Ducey. The latest average of polls has Lake ahead of Robson by 7 points.
The Arizona Sun Times asked Robson and Ducey whether they knew in advance that the ride would likely violate the law, and received no response by press time.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kari Lake” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “Karrin Taylor Robson” by Karrin Taylor Robson. Photo “Mark Brnovich” by Mark Brnovich.