Arizona State Senator TJ Shope to Probe If Gov. Hobbs’ Dark Money Security Funding Violated Campaign Finance Laws

Arizona Senate President Pro Tempore T.J. Shope (R-Florence) intends to probe how Governor Katie Hobbs (D) had a private security guard during the 2022 elections without disclosing how he was paid. Hobbs, who was serving as Arizona’s secretary of state in 2022, did not disclose how the security guard was paid in her campaign finance reports.

Though it remains unclear exactly how former security guard J.M. “Jesse” Torrez was employed to protect Hobbs, The Arizona Republic notes the governor appointed Torrez to head the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, where he will earn $115,000 per year after taking office.

A spokesman for Shope told The Arizona Sun Times that reporting by The Republic claiming Torrez was paid by Every Eligible American, a dark money group in Washington, D.C. tied to the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, is accurate. A spokesman for that group told The Republic it was “proud to provide security” for Hobbs “in her capacity as an election administrator.”

Hobbs, meanwhile, acknowledged to reporters that Torrez’s duties were not confined, according to The Republic, and said he was with her “all the time,” including during campaign events. Still, she insisted that “security wasn’t a campaign expenditure” but “something that I had as a result of my role as secretary of state.”

Every Eligible American is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation, which is sometimes called a dark money group because it is not required to disclose its funding sources. The group spent $4 million within 30 days of the 2022 elections, according to its reporting to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). That report, which includes expenditures for October 2022, does not seem to include payments made to Torrez.

If Torrez was paid by Every Eligible American, Shope suggested the cost of her security may have violated Arizona campaign finance laws that limit donation amounts and restrict funding sources, according to The Republic. Shope told the outlet, “The public has a right to understand who may have influence in future decision making.”

Shope suggested whoever paid for the security guard was likely making an in-kind donation to Hobbs’ campaign in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“Team Hobbs says he was paid privately,” wrote Shope, adding that the costs associated with a private security guard “still must be counted as an ‘in-kind’ contribution in the records.” He added, “so where are they?”

Arizona state law considers the value of such donations to correspond with the market value of the contribution, and punishments generally include fines corresponding to that market value. However, Arizona law also expressly forbids corporations, including non-profit groups, from donating anything to Arizona political candidates.

Should Shope’s probe determine wrongdoing occurred, his findings would need to be confirmed by Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D), then referred to Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) for prosecution, fines, or penalties to occur.

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Tom Pappert is the lead reporter for The Georgia Star News and a reporter for the Arizona Sun Times. Follow Tom on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.




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