Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s Founding of Partisan PAC Raises Ethical and Legal Questions of Possible Misconduct 

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer is coming under increasing scrutiny after the botched election in Maricopa County, leading some to question his founding and operation of the Pro-Democracy Republicans PAC, whose stated mission is “to support pro-democracy Arizona Republicans” who reject “conspiracy theorists and demagoguery” from candidates who maintain the 2020 presidential election in Arizona was stolen. In the context of the 2022 election, this is an indication of Richer’s direct opposition to GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, GOP Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem, several state legislators and candidates for Maricopa County Supervisor.

While Richer’s PAC claims to support Republicans, it has received money from a man who donates to almost exclusively Democrats. Francis Najafi gave $20,000 to his PAC, $60,000 to the Arizona Democratic Party, and $5,300 to Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor.

The PAC paid $45,000 to a PAC during the primary called Defending Arizona Values, which is run by Camelback Strategies, a moderate GOP consulting group with ties to the McCain family that raised money this past year, but spent very little on actual candidates.

Similarly, instead of going to candidates, much of the money Richer’s PAC raised has gone to reimburse him for things like airfare, food, and other “operating expenses.” None of it appears to have gone to any candidate.

According to Transparency USA, the PAC received $88,443 in contributions from the third quarter of 2021 until now. It has spent almost all of that money, with a large chunk going out shortly before the primary election.

Appearing on Stephen K. Bannon’s WarRoom Tuesday, State Rep. Jake Hoffman (R – Queen Creek) told host Bannon that Richer’s operation of the partisan PAC was evidence of misconduct and may violate Arizona law.

“[Steven Richer and Bill Gates] are from the McCain wing of the Republican Party – the Establishment wing,” Hoffman said.

He continued:

The Attorney General’s laid out multiple violations of the law – numerous, in fact. Recorder Richer created a political action committee specifically to oppose candidate that were on the ballot in the election that he was tasked with overseeing. There is clearly misconduct – 16-672 in Arizona Revised statutes is one area that we are looking into to hold these guys accountable.

But conflicts of interest is another area we’re looking into.

And quiet honestly, they have embarrassed not only this state, not only this county, but they’ve embarrassed the country  right now. We are the laughing stock of the world, thanks to these guys, and they need to resign.

And if they won’t resign, we will do everything in our power to hold them accountable, come this new legislative session.

Debra Heine of American Greatness reported:

Most of the money raised by the PAC ($45,000) went to Defending Arizona Values.

Independent Arizona, a group that believes “there is more to be gained by working across political and cultural lines than trying to push politics to the extreme,” also donated $7,650 to the group. Defending Arizona Values sent most of those donations ($52,631.73) to Consilium Consulting, a firm run by Kirk Adams, former Chief of Staff to Governor Doug Ducey.|

The Arizona Mirror noted last November that “it’s highly unusual” for an elections official such as Richer “to get involved in elections the way he’s planning to do, and by spending in elections that his office will oversee, he may open himself up to allegations of impropriety from candidates his PAC opposes.”

Sources told The Sun Times that expenditures made by the Defending Arizona Values PAC were for messaging to Arizona voters to oppose GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, but a review of the most recent filing of the Pro-Democracy Republicans PAC with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office indicates that, up to October 27, 2022, it paid Defending Arizona Values PAC $25,000 for polling services in July 2022 and $20,000 for unspecified mailing services in that same month.

A review of the expenditures made by the Defending Arizona Values PAC during the reporting period beginning July 17, 2022 and ending September 30, 2022 reveals a different use of proceeds than stated by the Pro-Democracy Republicans PAC. During this period it received $45,000 in donations from the Pro-Democracy Republicans PAC and $7,650 in donations from a progressive organization known as Independant Arizona. None of the $52,631 in expenditures made by Defending Arizona Values PAC during this period was for polling, according to its report filed with the Arizona Secretary of State. Instead, that report states that all $52,631 in expenditures were divided between mailings for four candidates, Maricopa County Supervisor Thomas Galvin, State Senate candidate Joanne Osborne, and two other candidates in either local or state legislative races. Neither PAC has filed documentation for donations or expenditures subsequent to October 27, 2022.

Bob Brickman, an election and regulatory attorney in Phoenix, told The Arizona Sun Times he believes it raises at least “the appearance of impropriety, even after balancing 1st Amendment issues.” He stressed that “it’s important for elected officials to understand perception issues, and avoid even perceived improper actions.” He said, “If not, then it becomes a full disclosure issue to the voters who supported him, and letting them know timely the rationale for his actions; otherwise, perception may fuel ‘voter remorse’ leading to possible recall or primary challenge.

Alex Kolodin, who is also an election attorney in Phoenix and who recently won election to the Arizona Legislature, told The Sun Times he intends to sponsor a bill the coming 2023 session to prohibit public officials from running PACs. State Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) ran one last year that he will revive, HB 2270. It provides, “An individual who is an election officer or employee or who oversees any significant aspect of election operations may not be a chairperson, treasurer or other member of a political action committee.”

Running the PAC may also run afoul of the Arizona State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct. Richer is an attorney and a member of the bar. Ethical Rule (ER) 8.4 on Misconduct, which includes activities outside of practicing law, prohibits several types of behavior that operating the PAC may violate. Section (c) states that it is professional misconduct to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” Section (d) prohibits “conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Section (e) says an attorney may not “state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.” Comment 5 after the rule states, “Lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibilities going beyond those of other citizens. A lawyer’s abuse of public office can suggest an inability to fulfill the professional role of lawyers.”

The Arizona Daily Independent spoke with Professor Kathleen Hale of Auburn University’s election administration program about Richer’s PAC, who said his entanglement could “have a negative effect on voter trust” due to the partisanship involved. Voters’ perception of a fair election process is impacted by “anything tied overtly to partisan politics,” said Hale, a member of the National Association of Election Officials.

Attorney Robert Gouveia observed on his video show last week that Richer deleted a tweet about his PAC from Nov. 17, 2021. It stated, with a link to the PAC website, “Thanks to a few generous donors this is now launching. Join me if you care about traditional Republican ‘stuff’ (free people, free markets, rule of law), but also don’t believe in conspiracies about the 2020 election or that Jan 6 was a tourist event.” Richer’s tweet retweeted a post by a reporter named Meg Cunningham who announced the formation of his PAC.

Gouveia notes that Richer is supposed to be overseeing an election that counts votes, deciding whether candidates like Kari Lake, Blake Masters, Abe Hamadeh and Mark Finchem win or not — candidates Gouveia believes Richer would refer to as “conspiracy theorists.”

Richer has repeatedly denied responsibility for the tabulation problems that occurred during the midterm election, casting the blame on the Maricopa County Supervisors.

– – –

Michael Patrick Leahy is the Editor in Chief of The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include the most recent available data from the financial reports filed with the Arizona Secretary of State by the Pro-Democracy Republicans PAC and the Defending Arizona Values PAC.

 

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22 Thoughts to “Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s Founding of Partisan PAC Raises Ethical and Legal Questions of Possible Misconduct ”

  1. […] In addition to the botched 2022 general election in Maricopa County, Richer’s founding of his partisan PAC raises ethical and legal questions of possible misconduct, The Arizona Sun Times reported. […]

  2. […] In addition to the botched 2022 general election in Maricopa County, Richer’s founding of his partisan PAC raises ethical and legal questions of possible misconduct, The Arizona Sun Times reported. […]

  3. Carolyn

    Anybody on here willing to walk a petition for remedy to the Legislative offices to void this election & set up a new one? I will be doing that on Monday, see you there.

  4. […] 6:01 pm KLWR posted a link to an article on The Arizona Sun Times website entitled "Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer's Founding of Partisan PAC Raises Ethical and Legal Questio…. Along with the video the following text was […]

  5. Robin Wright

    To all the election fraud deniers- Its pretty simple.
    All you had to do was run an election WITHOUT these weird ‘irregularities” . Kari has every right in the world to contest an election that had this many problems. Hobbs should not ever have been allowed to run the election she was a candidate in. WHO does that? Seriously!! That fact aside, she had ONE job. Run an election. Is anyone really accepting the excuse that the printers were not configured correctly? Wouldn’t they check them BEFORE the election? Its kind of important, don’t you think? Now you are surprised that Kari is contesting? And why the rush to certify a bad election? Our system is broken and this is only more proof/ Democrats version of democracy has some huge flaws that we can no longer overlook.

    1. Ed

      That’s no excuse regardless of who’s running election should be fare if the shoe was on the other foot Democrats would be yelling Bloody Mary so let’s be reasonable and you would agree but what I’m Not expecting you to understand I believe in do unto others how you want them to do to you and if we were agree on that we will all understand

  6. Bill

    Is there past precedent for any state, for reasons stipulated here on concerns about fraud and purposeful mismanagement, where a state’s election results couldn’t be certified and a new election was actually required and performed?

  7. At several precincts, request that voters who voted for Lake to return to their polling place to sign an affidavit declaring that, (her voters would to expose the truth). Compare those #s to the #s submitted by the election staff. Large discrepancies would be really strong proof, fraud and other crimes were committed by election officials during the midterms. I don’t believe the #s would be even close. Best of all, there’s nothing the cheaters could do to stop it.

    1. Michelle Kaylor

      My family & friends are outraged! We need to bring value into our elections. Currently, I have no faith in the system with all these irregularities. Hobbs should of known that questions would of been raised if she didn’t recuse herself from any election responsibility, that alone is a question of her leadership. We deserve to know the truth. We also demand accountability, change won’t happen without it. Please keep fighting for fair and clean elections. God Bless America.

  8. Kay Carter

    This is the 2nd time that

  9. Paula Kincaid

    Arizona did the same thing in 2020 with Donald Trump and now they are doing it to Kari Lake! Stop the steal from these crooked election officials!!
    Arizonian’s need to fight back and fight back hard!!

  10. tommy

    I believe that Maricopa County election machines were Jammed with Stingray and DRTBOX on this airplane that was circling the Phoenix area election day .

    https://www.politico.com/news/2022/10/14/wireless-modems-could-endanger-midterms-00061769

    https://apnews.com/article/north-america-technology-us-news-ap-top-news-dc-wire-d716aac4ad744b4cae3c6b13dce12d7e

    City of Phoenix Air Plane
    https://flightaware.com/resources/registration/N620FB

    Start video at 15:28 he takes you through the flight pattern , https://youtu.be/ZrtWKNh7FDI?t=868

    Navy Seal’s Next days Data Point on the City of Phoenix Airplane flights last 3 days , start video at 20:39 , https://youtu.be/B2GfgJBaW0A?t=1239

    1. Tommy

      @ArizonaSunTimes please contact the Election Judge in this article and ask her about elections machines modem being hooked up and the threat of that being a entry point for a hacker with DRTbox and Stingray technology LIKE the City of Phoenix Airplane has that was circling Maricopa county elections machines election day !! https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2022/11/maricopa-county-election-judge-believes-machines-programmed-reject-ballots-election-day/

      1. Sarah Theut

        I follow MobkeyWerx on youtube and he confirmed same City of Phoenix plane flying over Maricopa County on election day and days after. He explains it as being a spy plane that basically acts as the cell tower to any devices (phones, tablets, computers) using that technology below. Very interesting indeed.

        1. Sarah Theut

          Oops that was MonkeyWerx

  11. Thank you for this. I would not have seen it except for a Twitter post by Mark Finchem. We need all the investigative journalism we can get about this failed or fraudulent election.

    1. Kay Carter

      A2tl604 this election is so full of Fraud and corruption.. we protest .. we want clean fair elections!! Start the fo over on this election now. 1 day voting.

  12. LEONARD P. DOBRZYN

    I am a former resident of Maricopa County and a former Officer of the Court for that county among others! I am livid over what is happening to our election system and KARI LAKE a TRUE AMERICAN. I don’t care what your party affiliation you have. I only care that Americans can go to the polls and elect who they want without interference and fraud. If one party can do it, so can the other, and the question we all have to ask is WHO IS PULLING THE STRINGS. I urge S. Richer to forget what party he loves and FOLLOW TRUTH AND HONESTY… GOD IS WATCHING!!!!

    1. Joan

      REVOTE WITH WORKING MACHINES

  13. JAMES Jr. CALLAWAY

    Protest this election. Protest it right now! It’s a complete lie and fraud. Every single citizen in Arizona was disenfranchised. Do the right thing and revote!!! REVOTE

  14. JAMES Jr. CALLAWAY

    The Az election was criminal. We don’t stand for it at all. Stop stealing elections.

  15. JAMES Jr. CALLAWAY

    The Az election was a disgrace. A LIE. Do it over please. Kari Lake won in a landslide and the entire country knows it.

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