Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich should resign to focus on his bid for U.S. Senate for “politically motivated activities” that are preventing him from his elected duties, said Kris Mayes, a former corporation commissioner and the Democratic nominee for attorney general.
Brnovich has siphoned millions of dollars earmarked to prevent consumer fraud in Arizona in order to pay for lawsuits against Joe Biden’s presidential administration and other Democratic officials, according to an AZFamily report.
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Brnovich is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and has used his office’s bully pulpit to boost his candidacy in a crowded primary election. Brnovich has used his office to file numerous lawsuits against the Biden administration over everything from immigration enforcement policies to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, and has regularly appeared on conservative news programs to both talk about the litigation and generally criticize Democrats.
And Brnovich won’t get the coveted endorsement from former President Donald Trump. It’s unclear who Trump will endorse, though the twice-impeached ex-president recently called in to an event that Blake Masters, one of Brnovich’s opponents, was hosting.
Mayes, who faces no challenger in the Aug. 2 primary, said she had enough and wants Brnovich out of that office today.
“At a time when Arizona families are increasingly being targeted by scammers of all kinds, and when our elderly Arizonans are under assault by fraudsters, it is outrageous and unacceptable for our attorney general to divert even one penny away from fighting consumer fraud,” Mayes said at a Monday press conference outside Brnovich’s office in Phoenix. She was flanked by supporters holding up signs that read “Brnovich misspent our $$$” and “you cheated the public.”
Brnovich told AZFamily he is allowed to spend the money how he sees fit, and even blamed the Arizona Legislature for how the law is written.
Mayes noted that is a different tone than he struck in 2017, when Brnovich wrote to Gov. Doug Ducey that the consumer fraud funds were by law required to be used for helping the victims of fraud and for addressing violations of consumer protection laws.
Brnovich’s office called Mayes’ words “cheap political theater” in a statement to the Arizona Mirror.
“It’s disappointing that anyone running for attorney general would engage in such cheap political theater. I’m not sure if it shows her blatant partisanship or her misunderstanding of how this office works, but it’s an insult to all of our hardworking public employees,” Brnovich spokeswoman Katie Conner said.
“General Brnovich is very proud to have secured more than $300 million in consumer restitution and recoveries, more than any prior administration in state history. Our office receives its funding from the Arizona legislature, and we are in full compliance with Arizona law and the legislature’s guidelines on how money shall be expended,” Conner continued.
Mayes said Brnovich’s reasoning was “ridiculous and wouldn’t pass the laugh test in any law school class that I’ve ever taught or been in.”
She made a campaign pledge to restore funding to the consumer protection fund and also wants the state auditor general to look into the office’s practices.
In his report for AZFamily, investigative reporter Morgan Loew found that Brnovich was diverting money in the Consumer Protection and Fraud Revolving Fund to be used in other areas. Even though state law says the money should be spent on consumer fraud issues, Loew found that wasn’t the case.
The areas where Brnovich was found to divert funds were the Federalism Unit, the Government Accountability and Special Litigation Unit, the Voter Fraud Unit, the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Unit, and the Organized Retail Theft Task Force.
Brnovich has repeatedly touted his Federalism Unit which was almost exclusively used to fund his lawsuits against Biden. Ducey and Brnovich created the fund in 2015 with the intention to use funding to sue Barack Obama while he was in the White House, like a lawsuit against Obama’s transgender bathroom policy.
Mayes said not only has the state’s top law enforcement official stopped doing his job entirely, but he “is damaging our ability to fight crime in the state.”
“If people want to run for office, they need to spend all of their time doing that and they probably need to relinquish the office they hold now,” she said.
Mayes will face the winner of a six-person GOP primary to replace Brnovich. None of their campaigns responded to questions for this story.
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