Russell Pearce, Recalled Arizona Senate President, Could Get State Reimbursement For Campaign

At least one Arizona state senator thinks that an obscure provision in the state constitution could entitle recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce (R) to money from the state.

State Sen. Jack Harper (R-Surprise) said that his reading of Article 8, Part 1, Section 6 of the state constitution would allow Pearce to ask the state to reimburse the cost of his unsuccessful campaign to fight being recalled from office this week. The provision calls for "laws necessary to facilitate the operation of the provisions of this article shall be enacted, including provision for payment by the public treasury of the reasonable special election campaign expenses of such officer."

No such laws have been enacted in the state's 99-year history.

"I personally think that if he pushes the issue he could force the state to pay his campaign," Harper told The Huffington Post, noting he has not discussed the issue with Pearce.

According to records on the Arizona secretary of state's office website, Pearce raised $230,282 for the recall campaign and spent $159,587. Pearce, the architect of Arizona's controversial immigration law, lost the recall election in his Maricopa County district to fellow Republican Jerry Lewis.

Chad Willems, a spokesman for Pearce, said that he did not know if the recalled senator would be seeking reimbursement for his campaign.

"There has been a lot of speculation about that," Willems told HuffPost. "We heard about it. He and I have not had a conversation about it."

Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, said the secretary's office had no role in determining if Pearce would qualify for state reimbursement. Roberts said any decision would be up to the Senate, since no law had been passed regarding the constitutional language.

Since Pearce is the first state legislator to be recalled from office, the legislature has not determined what would happen in this case, said Mike Braun, executive director of the Arizona legislative counsel's office. He said the legislature would need to decide how to implement the law.

"They would be the only one who would authorize payment from the public treasury," Braun said.

There may be some precedent for Pearce seeking reimbursement. In 1988, former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham (R) reached a settlement to receive several hundred thousand dollars in reimbursement for a cancelled recall against him, according to Paul Bender, a professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. A recall had been started against Mecham before his impeachment by the state legislature, which cancelled the campaign.

Bender said he was ultimately unsure exactly how this could play out, since no law has been written to implement the constitutional language and there is no precedent for a legislator.