- Associated Press - Sunday, August 10, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Outside groups that have so far poured $1.9 million into Arizona’s Republican primary for governor are behind a series of critical ads and mailers that have been launched against some of the candidates.

The Arizona Republic reports (https://bit.ly/1uCQOzy) that the source of the outside money isn’t always clear. Most of the outside groups seeking to influence voters aren’t required to disclose where their funding comes from.

In the wake of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that lifted contribution limits and disclosure requirements for certain political groups, candidates face a new reality in which they have an increasingly difficult time controlling their own message.

Such has been the case for GOP candidates Doug Ducey, Christine Jones and Scott Smith, who find themselves on the defensive from criticism by outside groups with patriotic names that can pop up overnight.

Jones and Smith say Ducey is linked to the groups attacking them via Ducey’s political ally, Republican consultant Sean Noble, a veteran of the billionaire Koch brothers’ network.

Noble, who supports Ducey, has connections to four of the five groups running ads against Smith and Jones. But Ducey and Noble say there is no connection between the candidate and the outside groups’ activities in this race.

Three of the groups are nonprofits and can keep their donors secret, while two other groups are political-action committees that must disclose detailed summaries of their contributions and expenditures.

One of the first attacks on Jones came from Veterans for a Strong America, a South Dakota-based group that ran ads and sent mailers highlighting Jones’ complimentary remarks about Democrat Hillary Clinton and suggesting Jones was unconcerned about the 2012 attacks on a U.S. consul in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

Jones says she “absolutely does not support” Clinton and that any remarks she made comparing Clinton with her successor as secretary of state, John Kerry, were taken out of context.

Another out-of-state group, the Iowa-based Legacy Foundation Action Fund, ran an ad that said Smith, as former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, was “Obama’s favorite mayor.”

Smith, an opponent of the federal government’s health care overhaul, writes off attempts to tie him to Obama as election-year foolishness.

Noble’s consulting firm produced Veterans for a Strong America’s anti-Jones ads.

Noble told The Arizona Republic in an email that his firm has consulted and produced ads for the Legacy Foundation Action Fund, though he didn’t say whether he was involved with the Smith-Obama spot.

Documents also tie Noble to another group running negative ads in the governor’s race, this one based here. Noble is chairman of Conservative Leadership for Arizona. The group has spent more than $300,000 - $208,000 to promote Ducey and about $94,000 on attacks against Jones and Smith.

Jones’ allies have decided to strike back. Better Leaders for Arizona, a pro-Jones political entity bankrolled mostly by her former boss, GoDaddy Group founder Bob Parsons, has spent more than any outside group involved in the governor’s race.

In recent weeks, the group has spent about $1.2 million to assail Ducey for failing to “take responsibility for his dark money cronies” smearing Jones “with false attacks.” They’ve also hit him for his past delinquent property taxes, traffic violations, and the failure rate among franchises for Cold Stone Creamery, a company run by Ducey until 2007.

Ducey’s campaign responded with a letter to station managers, saying the ad contained defamatory information. The candidate also has said that while some franchises failed, the overwhelming majority have been successful.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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