On Thursday, CBS 5 Phoenix reported that Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is currently running for Senate as a Republican, has diverted money away from a fund intended to fight consumer fraud in order to litigate other, more political cases.
"In budget requests submitted by the Attorney General since 2018, the office has increasingly diverted money in the Consumer Protection and Fraud Revolving Fund to pay for other operations. Analysis of the operations shows they have little or no connection to protecting Arizona consumers," reported Morgan Loew.
For example, said the report, "In the Attorney General’s 2023 fiscal year budget request, Brnovich asked to divert $1.2 million to the Federalism Unit, $1.2 million to the Government Accountability and Special Litigation Unit, $525,000 to the Voter Fraud Unit, $315,000 to the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Unit, and $1.5 million to the Organized Retail Theft Task Force. According to previous budgets, funding for many of the units mentioned above came from other sources."
He went on to tout the work done by these units on the Senate campaign trail, including boasting about the Federalism Unit's work on Fox News.
This is despite the fact that in 2017, in a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey, Brnovich expressly warned this sort of diversion of funds may not be legal.
"There is legal risk associated with using consumer fraud settlement monies (outside of civil penalties and fees and costs) for non-CPA salaries, since by statute those monies may only be used for consumer restitution or for expenses related to “rectify[ing] violations or alleged violations of consumer protection laws,” wrote Brnovich at the time. “The necessary reassignment of attorneys from CPA to GASL limits the number of investigations that CPA attorneys can initiate in response to consumer complaints.”
In response to the report, Brnovich has denied any money was misspent.
"Our office receives its funding from the Arizona Legislature, which exercises its sole discretion as to where the funds come from and how they may be appropriately expended," said spokeswoman Katie Connor. "Attorney General Brnovich has secured a record amount of more than $300 million in consumer restitution and other similar relief from those who took advantage of consumers."
This comes as Brnovich struggles to secure a lead in the Senate primary against several other challengers, including businessman Jim Lamon and Silicon Valley investor Blake Masters. Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked Brnovich for not overturning Joe Biden's election victory in Arizona in 2020, something he doesn't have the power to do.
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