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Lesko Campaign Finance Scandal May Be ‘Gray Area’

Debbie Lesko
(Photo by Bret Jaspers - KJZZ)
Former state Sen. Debbie Lesko.

Congressional candidate Debbie Lesko is under fire after she gave money from her state re-election campaign to a SuperPAC supporting her federal campaign.

Lesko is running to represent the 8th Congressional District. It’s a special election and she resigned from the state Senate to run. But federal records show Lesko gave $50,000 of her state re-election fund to a SuperPAC supporting her bid for Congress.

Candidates aren’t supposed to coordinate with SuperPACs. Lesko’s lawyers said she didn’t coordinate activities and the donation was legal. The story was first reported in the Yellow Sheet Report.

Paul Ryan, vice president with the government watchdog group Common Cause, sees several murky legal questions with the transfer.

“I think it’s in a somewhat of a gray area legally,” he said. “There are good reasons it should not be permitted but I don’t think the Federal Election Commission has ever stated explicitly that it’s not permitted.”

The FEC declined to weigh in on a matter that might come up for review. One of Lesko’s opponents, Phil Lovas, announced he’s filing a complaint with the FEC and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

The primary election in the race is Tuesday.

Bret Jaspers was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2017 to 2020.