The Republican Party of Arizona (AZGOP) called upon Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) to conduct a full investigation into Governor-elect Katie Hobbs (D) for requesting tweets relating to election information be deleted.
“The First Amendment protects citizens’ speech from the government – not the other way around,” according to the letter by AZGOP President Dr. Kelli Ward. “As Americans, we have the right to be critical of our government and vocalize those concerns.”
+ a few other violations of State Law.
Read Full Letter⤵️ pic.twitter.com/gwgYnu0nrt
— Republican Party of Arizona (@AZGOP) December 6, 2022
The Arizona Sun Times reached out to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) for a response to this letter but did not hear back before publishing.
Ward suggests that Hobbs’s coordinating with Twitter to get posts she did not like removed from the platform would count as violating the poster’s First Amendment rights. 18 U.S. Code § 241 states that it is unlawful for two or more people to agree to “injure, threaten, or intimidate” anyone in the county exercising their rights provided by the Constitution. The statute does not require an overt act to be committed, and any violation incurs a felony.
Aside from potential First Amendment violations, Ward also asserted that Hobbs and Twitter may have violated Arizona laws. Hobbs appears to have acted in her own capacity to contact Twitter privately and request that posts be taken down and may have overstepped boundaries set by Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) § 16-922. This statute outlines that anyone can make independent expenditures. Yet, it does not count as independent if there is “actual coordination with respect to an expenditure between a candidate or candidate’s agent and the person making the expenditure or that person’s agent.”
The AZGOP acknowledged it has been unable to find any records indicating Twitter’s expenditures to take down the posts on Hobbs’s behalf, which may count as an in-kind contribution. If that were the case, Ward argues it could possibly violate ARS § 16-1022.
Moreover, it appears the email sent to Twitter came from an “azsos.gov” address, which would be used by the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. Ward stated this might violate ARS § 16-192, which says that offices, equipment, computer hardware, or telecommunications cannot be used to influence an election.
Ward concluded by requesting the AGO conduct the investigation and prosecute Hobbs and Twitter employees who violated any of these statutes.
As reported by The Sun Times, the email in question was sent back in 2021. The initial email was sent to the Center for Information Security (CIS) on January 7th, one day after the riot at the U.S. Capitol, wanting a tweet taken down that made assertions about the Voting Registration System.
“Reason: These messages falsely assert that the Voter Registration System is owned and therefore operated by foreign actors,” the original email said. “This is an attempt to further undermine confidence in the election institution in Arizona.”
An email from Twitter confirmed the posts were taken down. The email from Hobbs’s office does not mention her race for governor or her Republican opponent Kari Lake.
The email came to public attention because of the Missouri v. Biden lawsuit, where Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general argue that President Joe Biden and his administration use social media to suppress free speech.
Moreover, the AZGOP is not the only one seeking an investigation against Hobbs. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA-14) called for a federal investigation into this situation, alleging that First Amendment rights were violated.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mark Brnovich” by Mark Brnovich. Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Katie Hobbs. Background Photo “Twitter” by Yuri Samoilov. CC BY 2.0.