Missing campaign-finance records could lead to Arizona legislator’s removal from office


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State Rep. Jesus Rubalcava, D-Gila Bend, is on the hot seat over his use of public campaign-finance money, and it could cost him his chair in the House of Representatives.

A random audit from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission found problems with the freshman lawmaker’s accounting, and a follow-up audit identified $9,200 in expenditures that can’t be clearly determined to be related to his campaign.

Last week, the commission accepted the audit and Rubalcava — who has constituents in Buckeye and Goodyear and throughout southwest Arizona — agreed.

“I am not disputing the outcome of the audit and I do acknowledge and am taking responsibility there was poor accounting during this campaign cycle,” Rubalcava told the commissioners May 18.

The audit found that the public dollars were commingled with Rubalcava’s personal bank account. It detailed expenditures, such as a Washington, D.C., hotel stay, airfares and Uber fares, with indeterminate campaign purposes due to lack of documentation.

He said he was new to running for office, and figuring out campaign-finance reporting was a steep learning curve. The paperwork for his bank accounts, which he kept in his classroom in Buckeye, got lost when his classroom was shifted twice over the Christmas holiday, he added, so he can’t provide the needed documentation.

The next step is a recommendation from the commission’s executive director, Tom Collins. 

The stakes are high: Failure to fully account that public dollars were spent on his campaign could lead to fines of up to 10 times the disputed amount and possible removal from office. 

Only two sitting lawmakers have had to give up their seats in the 18-year history of Clean Elections: Rep. David Burnell Smith and Rep. Doug Quelland. 

Reach the reporter at maryjo.pitzl@arizonarepublic.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.

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