The state agency trying to pry Scottsdale Rep. David Burnell Smith from office has targeted him because of his ideolog y, he said during a debate Thursday.
"All the Democrats skated. If you’re going to do it, do it right," said Smith, a Republican legislator, alleging that dozens of other candidates have committed similar violations without consequence.
Smith squared-off against one of his leading critics, Barbara Lubin, executive director of the Clean Elections Institute, a watchdog that supports publicly-funded political campaigns.
"You can’t have rules and have people cheat, scam and still hold their office," Lubin said.
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission ordered Smith to resign after concluding that he violated spending limits in the 2004 primary election he agreed to in order to receive public campaign money under the Clean Elections Law.
Smith contends that he made accounting mistakes and overpaid a political consultant, but did not violate the law.
"We filed some reports that were inaccurate; we filed some reports that had mistakes in them," he said.
Not so, Lubin said. The commission found that Smith overspent by $6,500 in the primary, but attempted to hide that fact by delaying payment on some expenses until the general election, when he would receive more public money.
Smith’s campaign finance reports were difficult to follow because the expenditure dates were scrambled, Lubin said.
"I was getting dizzy looking at the reports back and forth," she said.
Smith has appealed the commission’s order to Maricopa County Superior Court and has pledged to take this case all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court, where he would argue the law itself is unconstitutional.
Smith represents District 7, which includes western Scottsdale, Cave Creek and Carefree.
Should he lose his appeals, Smith would be the first state legislator removed from office by an unelected body for campaign spending violations.
Lubin has pushed the commission to use its full authority under the law to strip Smith of his seat, rather than settle for a fine.
She said the law states that a candidate who overspends by 10 percent or more "shall" be removed from office.
The commission’s order also directs Smith to return $34,625 in campaign funds and pay a $10,000 fine.
The debate was hosted by the Valley Citizens League at the University Club in Phoenix.