The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (the Club) today responded to the baseless accusations from the Arizona Secretary of State’s (SOS) office concerning the Club’s constitutionally protected first amendment rights. These charges, made without any evidence of wrongdoing, unfortunately appear to be no more than IRS-style political targeting and harassment from a government agency run amok.
After seemingly non-stop media stories accusing the Club of spending too much money during the election, the Club’s ten-year reputation as a voice for taxpayers and history of good work and advocacy has been sullied. It is time to set the record straight. For more information on the targeting and frivolous complaint, click here.
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a recognized 501(C)(4) social welfare organization founded in 2005, has a long and proud history of issue advocacy, lobbying for the passage or defeat of legislation and policy research—all within the confines of the rules established by the Internal Revenue Service and the state of Arizona.
In addition to issue advocacy and lobbying, the Club challenged in a landmark US Supreme Court ruling an Arizona election law provision that curtailed constitutionally protected speech. In a 5-4 ruling, the Club’s challenge of the matching funds provision under the Clean Elections Act prevailed and the unconstitutional provision was struck down.
Despite these facts, the Arizona Secretary of State has singled out the Free Enterprise Club with harassing scrutiny. In an attempt to build a case to require the Club to file as an Arizona political committee, the Secretary of State initiated a “random” audit of the Club’s income and expenditures, an action that the Secretary has no statutory authority to conduct. The attempted illegal audit was overly broad, accusatory and without merit. Because the Club’s tax documents are publicly available, an attempt to seek guidance and clarification on how to comply with the audit was requested. The Secretary of State refused.
Additionally, just days after the surprise audit request, a complaint was filed against the Club. Again, we sought guidance from the Secretary and any evidence of wrongdoing by our group, yet none was provided. We responded to the complaint as requested on August 15, Just mere hours after submitting our response, however, we were notified by the Secretary of State that they were referring the matter to the Attorney General’s office.
“As one of the most effective lobbying organizations at the State Capitol, it is no surprise that from time to time we ruffle some feathers,” said Club President Scot Mussi. “The Secretary of State however, should be above blatant political targeting. Instead, they took actions beyond their authority, made accusations without a shred of evidence, and exploited them for media attention.”
Due to the unprecedented nature of these actions, the lack of evidence of wrongdoing and the Secretary’s effort to overturn federal law, the Club has filed a public records request with the Secretary of State’s office to obtain information that could shed light on this investigation.
“Politicians trying to silence their critics is nothing new,” Mussi continued, “The abuse of a public office, however, to infringe on first amendment rights and chill speech should not be tolerated.”
“We intend to vigorously fight these baseless accusations and to protect our rights under federal law and the constitution, even if it means going back to the Supreme Court.”