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The FEC has questions about how a PAC backing Blake Masters is disclosing its spending

By: - July 20, 2022 7:21 am

A PAC supporting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters is facing questions from the Federal Election Commission about whether it properly disclosed spending against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly.

A political action committee funded almost entirely by tech-billionaire Peter Thiel is facing questions from the Federal Elections Commission about whether it properly reported independent expenditures in support of U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters. 

The Saving Arizona PAC is mostly funded by Thiel, who gave the PAC $10 million, according to recent campaign finance reports, although other notable billionaires like Texan banker Andrew Beal have also contributed large sums like $75,000 to the PAC. Billionaire Cameron Winklevoss and his twin brother Tyler, who both famously feuded with Mark Zuckerberg over Facebook, also contributed a combined $100,000. 

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The FEC is asking for a “full public disclosure of your federal election campaign finances” for more than $1 million in spending the PAC made against U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, the Democratic incumbent that Masters hopes to defeat. Any independent expenditure over $10,000 requires a PAC to file what is called a 48-hour report disclosing the spending. 

“This letter is a standard notification indicating that the FEC has found an irregularity, omission, or other issue in a committee’s reporting,” Saurav Ghosh, Campaign Legal Center’s director for federal reform, told the Arizona Mirror. “The letter requests that the committee provide additional information about the issue, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the FEC will pursue an enforcement action against the committee or assess a fine.” 

Some committees in Arizona have already faced enforcement actions against them for such actions though. 

The ProgressNow AZ PAC last week agreed to pay the FEC a $78,000 fine for a similar violation for two independent expenditures that totaled roughly $125,000 in support of President Joe Biden. 

“The amount of any fine (if one is assessed) may be negotiated between the FEC and committee as part of a settlement, and would depend on the particular circumstances, including the amount of financial activity that the committee failed to report or reported incorrectly,” Ghosh said. 

The Saving Arizona PAC has been spending large in support of Masters and against Kelly and Masters’ primary opponent, Attorney General Mark Brnovich. So far, the PAC has spent over $3.5 million in IEs to boost Masters’ campaign. 

“There’s nothing gray about failing to meet a 48-hour reporting window,” Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said to the Mirror. “Save Arizona PAC clearly chose to play fast and loose with campaign finance law, and the FEC should pursue all availability penalties to make clear that there are consequences for not following the rules.”

The PAC did not respond to a request for comment for this story. The PAC has until August 22 to respond to the FEC’s letter.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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