Arizona AG indicts signature-gathering company over Prop 208 petitions

Nov 17, 2020, 10:59 AM | Updated: 11:52 am
(Twitter Photo/@investinedaz)...
(Twitter Photo/@investinedaz)
(Twitter Photo/@investinedaz)

PHOENIX – A Phoenix signature-collection company faces fines totaling up to $1 million for allegedly making illegal payments to workers who circulated petitions for the successful Invest in Ed ballot initiative.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Monday announced that AZ Petition Partners LLC, which operates as Petition Partners, has been indicted on 50 misdemeanor counts of prohibited payments for signature collection.

The company said the charges are unfounded and called it “a political prosecution.”

“The allegation that Petition Partners paid its circulators an illegal bonus by the signature – or any sort of illegal bonus – is absolutely false. We did no such thing,” company spokesman David Leibowitz said in a statement emailed to KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“This filing is a serious overreach by the attorney general’s office. This is a political prosecution, pure and simple. Instead of protecting the public, this case is designed to interfere with the ability of Arizona citizens to get initiatives on the ballot. We are confident the court will see it our way.”

The indictment, which was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Oct. 29, accuses Petition Partners of violating a state law enacted in 2017.

The statute reads: “A person shall not pay or receive money or any other thing of value based on the number of signatures collected on a statewide initiative or referendum petition. Signatures that are obtained by a paid circulator who violates this section are void and shall not be counted in determining the legal sufficiency of the petition.”

The indictment describes 50 bonus payments made in June, with 49 in the range of $25-$150 and one for $1,200.

Brnovich’s office alleged in a press release that the payments in question were organized by Petition Partners owner Andrew Chavez as part of the company’s “Duel for the Dollars” and “Weekend Warriors” bonus programs.

Because the class 1 misdemeanor charges were filed against an enterprise, not a person, each count is punishable by a fine of up to $20,000 if the defendant is found guilty. The maximum fine in Arizona for an individual convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor is $2,500.

Neither the indictment nor the attorney general’s press release alleged that the signatures in question had any impact on the Invest in Ed measure making the ballot as Proposition 208 for the Nov. 3 election.

The Arizona Secretary of State’s office verified 377,456 signatures submitted for the Invest in Ed measure, well above the required threshold of 237,645. Invest in Ed had submitted 435,669 signatures.

The initiative, which passed by a 52%-48% margin, imposes a 3.5% tax surcharge on taxable annual income over $250,000 for single persons or married persons filing separately, or $500,000 for married persons filing jointly or heads of households, with proceeds directed to public education.

Opponents tried to prevent Prop 208 from making it to the ballot, arguing that the 100-word description on petitions was inaccurate.

After a Superior Court judge ruled against Prop 208 in July, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the ruling in August and reinstated the measure.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook File Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...

Police investigate Phoenix hit-and-run that left pedestrian dead

Police are investigating a Phoenix hit-and-run after a pedestrian crossing the street was killed on Sunday evening.
1 day ago
Katie Hobbs, the Democratic governor-elect and current secretary of state, signs the official certi...

Arizona Sec. of State Hobbs requests recount of 3 election races

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs requested on Monday evening a recount of three general election races.
1 day ago
(File Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Fugitive since 2013 arrested in Mexico, extradited to Arizona

The FBI says a fugitive wanted for his involvement in a criminal drug enterprise has been extradited from Mexico and returned to Tucson.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/Morgan Wallen)...

Country artist Morgan Wallen to perform next year at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix

Country artist Morgan Wallen announced last week an upcoming stop in the Valley for his 2023 world tour.
1 day ago
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)...
Danny Shapiro

Ron Wolfley expects Patriots to corner Kyler Murray, run the ball against Cardinals

Cardinals radio personality and Arizona Sports host Ron Wolfley has ideas on how the Patriots will play the Cardinals next Monday.
1 day ago
Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, left, signs the official Arizona general elect...
Kevin Stone

Arizona certifies 2022 election, setting stage for lawsuits, recounts

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs certified the state's 2022 general election Monday, but it doesn’t close the books on the midterms.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Arizona AG indicts signature-gathering company over Prop 208 petitions