An effort by Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes to block former President Donald Trump from appearing on the ballot has raised ethical and legal questions. Fontes claims to be considering what has been described as a “longshot legal bid” to disqualify and remove Trump from the 2024 US presidential ballot based on the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
Not only is Fontes being accused of robbing Arizona voters of their right to accept or reject the former president, but also of violating Arizona law.
Concerns about Fontes’ latest move have been raised by both those residing on both the right and left of the political aisle.
Arizona law requires a secretary of state to accept candidate forms and nominating petitions that are in proper form. Acceptance of a candidate’s legally required documentation is little more than a ministerial task.
As a result, Fontes may be crossing the line and violating Arizona law that prevents the use of public funds for partisan purposes and to influence the outcome of an election.
16-192. Use of state, special taxing district resources to influence elections; prohibition; civil penalties; definitions
- Notwithstanding any other law, this state and special taxing districts and any public agency, department, board, commission, committee, council or authority shall not spend or use public resources to influence an election, including the use or expenditure of monies, accounts, credit, materials, equipment, buildings, facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, web pages and personnel and any other thing of value of the public entity.
- The prohibition on the use of public resources to influence the outcome of bond, budget override and other tax-related elections includes the use of special taxing district-focused promotional expenditures that occur after an election is called and through election day. This prohibition does not include routine special taxing district communications.
Fontes’ “research” has prompted calls for county attorneys to investigate his use of public funds.
Arizona State Senator Janae Shamp called on Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, whose office has been mired in controversy since the botched 2022 election, to conduct such an investigation.
“Arizona law allows the county attorney to investigate and file a complaint against public officials using state resources to influence an election. Secretary Fontes appears to be doing just that by investigating ways to prevent President Trump from being on the primary election ballot. I call on Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell to investigate Secretary Fontes’ actions and file suit to recover any money unlawfully spent trying to influence the 2024 elections.”
“This should be investigated,” chimed in the Kari Lake War Room Twitter account in response to attorney Jen Wright’s questions about Fontes’ “research.”
“As @JenWEsq suggests, @Adrian_Fontes may already be in violation of the law. And if the former Cartel Lawyer attempts to kick the leader of the @GOP off the ballot, the @AZHouseGOP must immediately move to impeach him,” referring to the fact that before Fontes became the Maricopa County Recorder, he served as legal counsel to a straw-buyer of weapons from the Obama administration’s deadly but failed Fast and Furious gun-running scheme.
Fontes has been admonished by the courts in the past for questionable election activity. While serving as Maricopa County Recorder, Fontes was slapped down by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge who granted Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s request for a restraining order to stop Fontes from illegally mailing out ballots for the Democratic Presidential Preference Election.
At the time, Fontes claimed that he was sending out last-minute ballots to voters who never requested them due to his concerns about coronavirus.
The Attorney General’s Office filed the temporary restraining order against Fontes and Runbeck Election Services Inc., to prevent them from mailing the ballots to registered Democrats who had not yet cast ballots in connection with the 2020 Democratic Presidential Preference Election.