PAC head now campaign chief for Ward in Arizona Senate race

Posted at 5:51 AM, Oct 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 13:53:06-04

The chairman of a political action committee backing Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward is assuming a senior role in her campaign, prompting questions about coordination between the groups, which is prohibited by federal law. 

Veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins, chairman and founder of Great America PAC, will remain head of the so-called super PAC, the group's lawyer said Wednesday, as the campaign announced that Rollins was being named Ward's campaign chairman. 

Campaign finance law bars collaboration between a candidate's campaign and super PACs such as Great America, which can solicit unlimited contributions to promote candidates, unlike federally regulated candidate committees. 

Great America lawyer Dan Backer said Rollins will recuse himself from any PAC discussions of the Ward race. The group, affiliated with President Donald Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon, also plans no further expenditures to promote Ward beyond the $20,000 it spent in August.

The group endorsed Ward last week. Bannon, who is leading an effort to elect pro-Trump Republicans to the Senate, spoke at a Ward fundraiser in Scottsdale on Oct. 17.

With the money and endorsement in the past, the move by Rollins passes muster, so long as the PAC stays out of the race going forward, said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center.

"If they stopped all activity on her behalf, immediately, then arguably there wouldn't be any expenditures to coordinate," Noble said.

But Noble wondered how Rollins would be chosen to run the campaign without some coordination between Ward and the PAC. "How'd he suddenly decide to go over there?" he said.

It is not a violation for a PAC employee to move to a campaign post, provided the PAC ceases spending money promoting the candidate.

"Put simply, being asked to come over isn't coordination," Backer said. 

Rollins formed the super PAC in 2016 to support Trump's presidential campaign. 

The news of Rollins' leadership role in Ward's campaign came the day after first-term GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, whom Ward had planned to challenge next year, announced he would not seek re-election in 2018.

Ward's campaign seized on the now open Republican nomination to promote Ward, who lost her challenge last year to GOP Sen. John McCain, and to tout Rollins, who achieved fame as a national GOP strategist and top aide to President Ronald Reagan.

In a statement, Rollins said: "Given the importance of this race on the national landscape, I want to do everything I can to ensure Arizona elects a conservative senator next year."