A group opposed to a Tom Steyer-funded petition drive that would put a higher renewable mandate question on the Arizona ballot this fall is accusing the group gathering signatures of employing 27 felons in addition to the five already alleged to have been employed earlier in the year and acknowledged by one of the drive's organizers.
Arizona law requires anyone gathering signatures for a petition to be eligible to vote. Those with felony records can lose their voting rights for a period of time after their release from prison depending on the situation and the sentence, and Arizonans for Affordable Electricity says it has not seen proof that the signature gatherers in question have had their voting rights restored.
"Given the severity of many of these offenses—including murder, kidnapping and armed robbery—it is unlikely the individual would be a candidate to have his/her rights restored," said Matt Benson, director of AFAE.
Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona (CEHA) is hoping to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot asking Arizona voters to increase the mandate on the state's renewable portfolio from 12 percent in 2020 to 50 percent by 2030. To do so, they'll need to supply roughly 260,000 valid signatures by July 5.
AFAE filed a similar complaint with the secretary of state's office in May of this year, saying that CEHA had employed at least five persons with felony convictions on the petition drive, and asked that all of the signatures gathered and submitted by those people be thrown out.
According to the first-quarter campaign finance filings, the most recent time period for which data is available, the CEHA campaign had received just over $957,000 in contributions from NextGen Climate Action, the political action committee of Tom Steyer, the California billionaire and political activist.
Arizonans for Affordable Electricity is mainly funded by Pinnacle West, which owns the main energy supplier in the state, Arizona Public Service (APS).
"The energy campaign's blatant disregard for state law represents a clear and present threat to public safety and the integrity of our state's initiative process," Benson said. "We respectfully request that the Arizona Secretary of State's Office investigate these serious claims and invalidate any signatures collected in violation of state law."
Benson told the Washington Free Beacon by email that he hasn't seen any movement from the secretary of state's office yet on the first complaint filed in May. The secretary of state's office did not return a request for comment.
The director of Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, Rodd McLeod, also did not return a request for comment.
McLeod told a columnist for the Arizona Republic in May, "We hired a bunch of people and a few slipped through the cracks and they are no longer working for us."
Nationally, Steyer has increased his visibility thanks to his "Need To Impeach" television ads and town hall campaign against President Trump. However, the former hedge fund manager has a longer political history promoting political campaigns related to climate change and the environment.