Arizona Democrats file complaint against No Labels over donor secrecy

Jul 13, 2023, 1:06 PM | Updated: 1:12 pm

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Democratic Party is looking to force new political party No Labels to disclose its donors or lose its status as a political party, an escalation of Democrats’ efforts to block a group they worry will boost Donald Trump’s chances of returning to the White House.

Arizona Democrats filed a complaint Thursday with Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who angered some in his party earlier this year when he formally recognized No Labels as a political party in the state. The complaint asks Fontes to suspend the nascent party until it discloses its donors.

No Labels says it is seeking ballot access in many states and will run a bipartisan “unity ticket” for president “if the two parties select unreasonably divisive presidential nominees.” The party has also secured ballot access in Alaska, Colorado and Oregon.

Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans worry a No Labels candidate couldn’t win but would tip the scales in favor of Trump or a Trump-like Republican. Arizona is a crucial battleground state, where Democrat Joe Biden beat Trump in 2020 by less than half of a percentage point. Biden won two other states by less than one percentage point.

The group plans to release an agenda for a potential 2024 presidential ticket next week in New Hampshire with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican. The duo, who’ve both carved out centrist positions within their parties, is a potential White House ticket for the party.

No Labels officials say their own research suggests they pull support equally from the two major parties, and they won’t field a ticket unless they believe it has a viable path to victory.

Spokespeople for Fontes and No Labels did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the complaint from Arizona Democrats.

Roy Herrera, a lawyer for the Arizona Democratic Party, argues in the complaint that No Labels should have registered with the secretary of state as a political action committee but did not during the nearly yearlong process of organizing a political party. He also argues the new party should be required to disclose the donors who paid for the signature gathering to secure ballot access, or at least the expenses incurred since being recognized as a party.

“Nobody should be exempt from the law, especially not an out of state dark money group,” Morgan Dick, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Arizonans deserve better and voters deserve to know who is behind this shadowy organization and what potentially nefarious agenda they are pushing.”

The Arizona Democratic Party has also filed a lawsuit seeking to block the recognition of No Labels, arguing there were deficiencies in the paperwork the group filed. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper sounded skeptical of the Democratic arguments during a hearing on Tuesday but did not say which way she would rule.

David Rosenbaum, a lawyer for No Labels, argued in court that the party is not required to disclose its donors to the state unless it nominates candidates for state offices, which it has no plans to do. In a letter to the secretary of state’s office last month, he argued that No Labels is subject only to federal campaign finance regulations and has not done anything to trigger state reporting or registration requirements.

Herrera countered that No Labels can’t avoid state-level campaign finance reporting by declaring it will only run candidates for president and vice president.

“Even if it will have no state candidates, No Labels is not entitled to special treatment under the law,” he wrote in his complaint.

About 7,000 voters in the state’s two largest counties, which comprise 75% of all voters in the state, have registered with the No Labels Party since it was recognized in March. Statewide figures are compiled quarterly and were not yet available.

No Labels is one of four recognized political parties in Arizona, joining the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties. The state stopped recognizing the Green Party after the 2018 election, when it failed to get at least 5% of the vote in the election for governor and didn’t collect enough signatures to maintain its status.

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Arizona Democrats file complaint against No Labels over donor secrecy