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Keeping voters in the dark: GOP schools chief candidate Michelle Udall hasn’t filed her latest campaign finance report
State Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
It’s been 35 days since candidates for elected office were required to file their campaign finance reports to disclose campaign activity for the first three months of 2022, but state Rep. Michelle Udall still has not submitted her report.
Udall, who is seeking the Republican nomination for state schools superintendent, is the only candidate for statewide office this year that has failed to file a campaign report for the first quarter.
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Each day the report is late, a $10 penalty is accrued for the candidate. After 15 days, the penalty increases to $25 per day. The fines cannot be paid by the campaign, either — payment must come out of the candidate’s own pocket.
Udall currently owes $650 for failing to file this report.
And she has a pattern of filing her reports late and accruing late fees. The Secretary of State’s Office told the Arizona Mirror that Udall owes a total of $810 in penalties; that includes a fine for her 2021 report, which was filed 15 days late, and being one day late on a report due in January 2020.
Udall’s current report being 35 days past the deadline is not the longest she has gone without filing a report: She went 123 days without filing her 2018 pre-general election report and then was 45 days late for her fourth quarter report in the same election cycle. Those delayed reports accumulated fines of $2,850 and $900, respectively.
A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said it’s unclear if those fines were paid in full or waived.
Arizona has lax campaign finance laws and almost no accountability measures in place for candidates or committees, as the Arizona Republic noted in a report about Democratic Rep. Cesar Chavez accruing more than $60,000 in fees. He only ended up having to pay $1,000 of that, the paper reported.
Campaign finance reports are one of the cornerstones for transparency in politics, both in Arizona and across the country. They let voters see who is lining up to financially support candidates for elected office and how those candidates are spending their money. When candidates don’t file reports, or are chronically late in doing so, it’s impossible for the public to know basic details.
In Udall’s case, voters know that she previously raised a paltry $12,500 for all of 2021, along with $28,000 carried over from a previous legislative campaign. But because she has so far failed to file her first quarter report, it’s unknown how much she’s raised so far in 2022, and from who — important information both for her campaign for higher office and her position as a state legislator voting on new laws.
Udall is running in a three-way primary against former schools superintendent and attorney general Tom Horne, whose campaign is mostly funded by $625,000 in loans from him and his wife, and Shiry Sapir, a Scottsdale realtor who is running with Clean Elections funding. The winner will take on the incumbent Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat who is also running with Clean Elections funding.
Udall did not respond to requests for comment before this story was published. However, on May 22 she sent a statement to the Arizona Mirror in which she said she takes “full responsibility” for missing the filing deadline and pledged to submit her report as soon as possible.
“I have been focusing on my legislative duties and problem solving with schools. I am working to ensure appropriate funding for our students in the budget,” Udall said. “For this reason, I frankly have little to report. I have had little time to do fundraising. I have prioritized doing what I can to help students, teachers, and schools overcome the effects of COVID.”
According to state campaign finance laws, after 30 days late the Secretary of State’s Office can refer a complaint to the “proper enforcement officer,” which in this case would be the attorney general.
A Secretary of State’s Office spokesperson said that has not been done yet.
***UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a comment from Michelle Udall.
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