Republicans on a budget committee have voted to redistribute $500,000 that Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs planned to use for voter outreach, a move she called “partisan politics at its worst.”
Hobbs' office received the funding through the Help America Vote Act and planned to use it on digital and radio advertising to curtail election disinformation and connect voters with county officials, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee had been expected to sign off on the plan, but Republicans on the committee amended the request so that Hobbs' office no longer has a say in how the money is spent.
“This smacks to me of a very political move to try to handcuff the secretary,” Democratic committee member and House Assistant Minority Leader Randy Friese said.
The funding must now be divided among counties, with $50,000 each for Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma counties and $25,000 each for the other 10 counties.
Hobbs said the vote prevents her from arming voters with information they need to fight back against disinformation campaigns.
“Those threats remain, on top of the added challenge of navigating elections during a pandemic,” Hobbs said. “This is obviously not the outcome we wanted but this office will continue to move forward regardless of these partisan games.”
Democrats on the committee say they were told that Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich had lobbied GOP lawmakers to remove the spending request from the day’s agenda. Brnovich and Hobbs are widely expected to run for governor after Gov. Doug Ducey’s term expires in 2022.
A spokesman for Brnovich would not comment.
The attorney general didn’t directly ask for the request to be removed from the committee agenda, just that lawmakers add unspecified “guardrails” because elections this year are especially political, Republican state Sen. J.D. Mesnard said.