Legal Alert - Arizona Attorney General Opinion Embraces Taxpayer-Funded (Political) Advocacy: Potential Pitfalls for Businesses and Nonprofits
by Brett W. Johnson and Thomas Clees
The Office of the Arizona Attorney General recently sparked debate by issuing an opinion advising two county attorneys that they may use public resources to disseminate messages about the dangers of marijuana use ahead of the state’s much-anticipated vote on legalization in 2016. Obviously, the rationale behind this opinion is not limited to the marijuana legalization debate, and it is all but certain to affect other initiatives and races during the next election. Specifically, this opinion may create new opportunities for public and government relations engagement by businesses and nonprofits that either (1) seek for public officials to expend public resources on advocacy for select political positions or (2) by contrast, are recruited by public officials to expend public resources on a particular cause. As the Attorney General’s actual opinion is relatively narrow or silent on the scope of such collaborative activity, nonprofit organizations, businesses, political activity organizations and even individual donors and consultants will need to be wary before relying on the opinion in how they interact with public officials in support of, or oppositions to, public issues.