The dark-out period for reporting campaign money in Glendale has begun.
Because recall elections in Arizona happen without a prior primary election, the city decided not to require pre- and post-primary campaign finance reports in August and September for its November 2015 recall, as it would during a regular election cycle.
Because of that decision, there will be no disclosure of fundraising and spending by political committees in Glendale, whether or not they represent candidates, for the next four months.
Only one recall election is official so far. Councilmember Gary Sherwood has already drawn one challenger in his recall election four months from now. The recall movements against other councilmembers would have to report their funds if reports were due.
A lot of that money will go undetected until the next reports are due around the time of Halloween.
After changes to the election code approved by the state Legislature, candidates in local elections during 2015-16 can accept up to $6,250 from each individual who donates to their campaign, according to the secretary of state’s website.
That maximum limit for local contributions, by any sole person within a single election cycle, is up from $2,500 in 2013-14 and about $400 in 2011-12. There were separate primary and general contribution cycles in those previous years, but not anymore.
The new campaign finance rules in the state also allow political action committees, such as the ones behind the latest recall efforts, to receive unlimited amounts from individual contributors and other PACS.
Super PACS, such as “social welfare” nonprofits with a 501(c)(4) tax status, do not disclose their donors, but they must report independent expenditures, which occur free of candidate control, over a certain amount within a few days after those funds are spent.
The city could soon face another decision over how much transparency to allow during its special elections.
Next year’s recall election, if approved, would probably occur March 8, which is the second Tuesday of that month in 2016. The City of Peoria held a special election March 10, 2015, which was the second Tuesday that month.
If the city clerk verifies enough petition signatures for a recall, the council is required by state law to pass a resolution, calling a recall election, 90 days before the election would occur, which is the week before local school districts close for spring break.
The vote by the council would have to occur no later than its Dec. 8 voting meeting.
State statute describes “a preelection report that is due within fifteen days of the governor’s (or, in this case, city council) proclamation calling the special election.”
That 15-day deadline for a campaign finance report would fall on Dec. 23, about five weeks before the annual report due by the end of January.
The city’s most recent report was due between June 1 and 30, a period that fit the 15-day window following the city council’s May 29 approval of a resolution calling for Sherwood’s recall election.
Another deadline depends on when the signatures are submitted, which is arguably in the hands of the groups seeking a second recall election.
The campaigns pursuing a recall of Councilmembers Bart Turner and Lauren Tolmachoff have until Oct. 17 to turn in, at the clerk’s office, the petition signatures they have gathered.
The recall effort against Vice Mayor Ian Hugh also has 120 days to fill its petitions with signatures from registered voters in the councilmember’s district. Those forms are due Nov. 3.
If the people and organizations spearheading those committees also target Councilmember Jamie Aldama, for recent controversial votes, the signatures for that committee could, likely and likewise, be filed by November.
State election law describes “a preelection report that is due within fifteen days of filing the petition” for a recall, but that clock apparently does not start ticking until enough signatures are ruled valid.
It took 19 days, from April 24 to May 13, for city and county election officials to certify the last batch of recall signatures. The council voted for the Nov. 3 recall election 14 days after those signatures were processed.
The organizers of the recall efforts against Turner and Tolmachoff could wait until two and a half weeks before the Nov. 3 election to finish gathering signatures, but verification would likely be delayed because officials would be busy with the election.
The time it takes officials to finish going over the signatures could trigger a campaign finance report in mid- to late November, driven by the second recall but applicable to all committees, following the report already due Oct. 30 because of the first recall election.
Unless those signatures are submitted significantly earlier, it appears unlikely that the residents of Glendale will have much chance of determining who is funding the first recall before they cast their votes in the Nov. 3 election.
In the months leading up to a second recall in March, by contrast, local voters would see campaign finance reports, including pre- and post-election ones, likely due for candidates and committees in October, November, December, January, March and April.