The Skinny

Brash Cash Clash Hashed

Dark money group loses court fight over spending in 2014 election

In the ongoing battle over regulating dark-money groups that don't disclose their contributors and expenditures, the Clean Elections Commission won a round in court last week when a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that a nonprofit group that aired TV ads attacking former Mesa mayor Scott Smith was subject to a $95,000 fine.

But it wasn't a win on the merits of the case. Instead, under the judicial equivalent of "You Snooze, You Lose," Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Crane McClennen ruled that the nonprofit group, the Legacy Foundation Action Fund, filed its challenge of the Clean Election Commission's fine several days too late.

The Legacy Foundation Action Fund is expected to appeal the decision.

The Legacy Foundation Action Fund's ads—which were linked to allies of Gov. Doug Ducey—hammered Smith's record as mayor of Mesa by noting that he was "Obama's favorite mayor" (which is just about the nastiest thing you can say about anybody in a GOP primary).

LFAF attorneys have argued in court that they didn't need to register as a political committee because they weren't trying to influence the outcome of an election; they were merely trying to educate voters about Smith's record.

After Smith filed a complaint about the ads, Ken Bennett, who was then Arizona secretary of state, thought that case was fishy, but he recused himself from investigating because he was also running for governor last year. He sent the investigation off to Maricopa County, where officials accepted the Legacy Foundation Action Fund's side of the story.

But the Clean Election Commission also investigated Smith's complaint and concluded that the group was trying to influence the outcome of the election. The commission socked the nonprofit with a $95,000 fine. Attorneys for the Legacy Foundation Action Fund appealed the fine to an administrative law judge, who ruled in their favor.

But the Clean Elections Commission didn't accept the judge's ruling and reinstated the fine. As a result, the Legacy Foundation Action Fund took the case to Maricopa County Superior Court, but the judge ruled that that they didn't file within a 14-day deadline to challenge Clean Election Commission decisions.

Secretary of State Michele Reagan weighed in on the side of Legacy Foundation Action Fund, saying that the Clean Election Commission had exceeded its authority by fining the group. Reagan says she has the sole authority to regulate campaign activity and, as far as she's concerned, there's nothing to investigate here.

Pill Bill Still Chilled

Federal court blocks new state abortion law while the case moves through the legal system

Arizona doctors won't have to tell their patients that they can "reverse" a medication abortion if they take a different drug while a suit over the new law works its way through the federal courts.

Attorneys for the state agreed to a temporary restraining order blocking that provision of the law from taking effect until a court hearing can be held later in the year.

The law, passed in this year's legislative session, adds a new requirement to the long list of information that doctors are required to tell women who are seeking abortions: A dose of progesterone can stop a medication abortion.

Critics of the legislation—including Dr. Ilana Addis, the chair of the board for the Arizona Section American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—say there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that medication abortions can be reversed with a special dose of another drug. Addis called the requirement "tantamount to quackery" in an opinion piece for the Arizona Capitol Times.

Medication abortion involves two medications: The first, mifepristone, is followed 48 hours later by misoprostol. On its own, mifepristone is only effective about half the time, so unless women take a dose of misoprostol, there's a 50 percent chance the pregnancy will continue whether or not they take progesterone.

While some pro-life doctors say they have given progesterone to women who have taken mifepristone and rescued the pregnancy, there is no medical evidence that's the case.

"Plain and simple, this law would force doctors to lie to women about their health care options, and that is never acceptable," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Women and their health care providers must be able to make decisions about the care that's right for them based on solid evidence and sound medical practice, not the agendas of politicians who have no business interfering in these matters. We are confident the courts will put an end to this intrusive and deceitful law."

The law also prohibits insurance companies from offering coverage for abortion services if they sell policies on the federal exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

So Long, Clarence

Sheriff Dupnik is stepping down at the end of July

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has let us know when he will be hanging up his badge. Dupnik will retire on July 31 after 35 years as the top elected lawman in Pima County.

Dupnik made the announcement last week at a roast in his honor.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors is expected to appoint Dupnik's chief deputy, Chris Nanos, to the top spot to finish out Dupnik's term. Nanos has said he'll run for the office in 2016.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel will be airing its final episode on KGUN-9 this Sunday, June 28, with special guest Dante Lauretta of the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab, who will talk about the UA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid-hunting spacecraft.

Zona Politics will take a brief summer break and then return at 8 a.m. Sunday, July 26, on the CW Network: Channel 8 on your Cox and Comcast systems and Channel 58 on broadcast and DirecTV. That same weekend, the radio version of the show will debut on KXCI, 91.3 FM.

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