- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Secretary of State Michele Reagan on Thursday refused to rule out legal action if the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission adopts new reporting rules for independent campaign expenditure committees.

Reagan told the commission that the proposal usurps her authority as the state’s top elections officer.

“I do not wish to fight with the commission,” Reagan said. “But I must and I will do everything I can to try to protect the constitutional authority and jurisdiction of the Secretary of State’s office.”

Also opposing the new rules was the attorney general’s office and many business groups, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The business community strongly opposes this direction,” Chamber CEO Glenn Hamer said. “We continue to believe that the proper authority for regulating the election activity of Arizona businesses is the Secretary of State’s office.”

But the chairman of the commission, Thomas Koester, said the commission is likely to push ahead.

“Overwhelmingly, our individual comments have been in favor of something that gives the voters some transparency in our election process,” he said.

The commission delayed the vote for another two months to consider revised proposals.

Spending by outside groups that don’t have to disclose their donors or expenditures has soared in Arizona and nationally since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the government can’t restrict independent spending on elections. But the court also ruled that states can require disclosure, and the Clean Elections Commission has been trying to boost reporting requirements for outside groups.

State Elections Director Eric Spencer, a Reagan appointee, said the voter-created commission is moving far outside its legal mandate to fund and oversee candidates who choose public financing. But Koester said there’s more to Clean Elections.

“One of our mandates, just to make it very clear, is voter education,” Koester said. “It’s probably more important, especially since (the Supreme Court decision), to inform the voters not only about the candidates and sponsor debates, but try to make elections transparent. And all of the comments …. everyone in the state and probably all across the nation for that matter, is very worried about the corruption of big money.”

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