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Several attack ads have surfaced in the three-way race for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s seat ahead of the Aug. 30 primary.
McCain is skipping out on July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland to campaign against his main opposition, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Flagstaff and former Republican State Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City, who stepped down in December 2015 to focus on running against McCain.
The Arizona Grassroots Action Political Action Committee, which supports McCain, challenged Ward’s weakness on national security in an April 20 attack ad.
"She wanted to ban our intelligence agencies from operating in Arizona, leaving Arizonans vulnerable to attack from terrorists," claims the PAC.
The PAC has spent $211,547 against Ward and $45,050 supporting McCain as of May 10, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Last month, we fact-checked the same PAC’s online attack ad against Kirkpatrick, claiming she votes with fellow Democrats "nearly 90 percent of the time." We rated it Mostly True.
The latest attack ad about Ward’s record on national security is more misleading.
Ward and the NSA
Matt Kenney, Arizona Grassroots Action PAC Executive Director, referred us to several news articles on SB 1156, which Ward sponsored in the state Legislature in 2014. The bill eventually died in the Senate.
According to the bill’s text, the law would have prohibited state and local law enforcement from assisting federal agencies that collect data without warrants, such as the National Security Agency. It also would have barred local governments from providing "material support," such as water and electricity, to these agencies, assuming they had an in-state facility.
Finally, the bill would have also blocked public universities, such as Arizona State University, from serving as "NSA research facilities."
A December 2013 U.S. News and World Report article quotes Ward as saying that "the NSA isn’t welcome in Arizona unless it follows the Constitution."
Ward believed the NSA violated the Fourth Amendment with "unconstitutional snooping."
We did not hear back from her campaign.
Arizona State University law professor Paul Bender said the ad’s claim exaggerates what the bill sought to do.
"I don't think that it is accurate to say that, if the bill passed, that would ban U.S. intelligence agencies from operating in Arizona," Bender said. "It would just require them to get warrants in order to get electronic information from Arizona state or local governments."
Technically, Ward’s bill could have applied to any federal agency that engaged in warrantless surveillance, not just the NSA.
"It wasn’t intended to stop intelligence agencies from operating in Arizona," said Mike Maharrey, a spokesman for the Tenth Amendment Center.
The ad claimed Ward "wanted to ban our intelligence agencies from operating in Arizona."
Ward did seek to limit the power of the NSA by preventing assistance from state and local law enforcement without a warrant. However, experts said calling it an outright "ban" on operations is beyond what the bill proposed.
The legislation was meant to discourage federal agencies from collecting information without a warrant.
We rate the ad’s claim as Mostly False.
PolitiFact TV Archive, "Kelli Ward," accessed May 2, 2016
PolitiFact Arizona, "Pro-McCain PAC says Democratic challenger votes by party almost 90 percent of the time," April 29, 2016
ABC15, "Sen. John McCain might miss the Republican National Convention for first time in more than 30 years," April 19, 2016
ABC15, "Kelli Ward Senate run: Arizona Senator seeking McCain’s U.S. Senate seat to step down," Dec. 15, 2015
Center for Responsive Politics, "Arizona Grassroots Action," accessed May 2, 2016
LegiScan, "Arizona Senate Bill 1156," accessed May 2, 2016
The Los Angeles Times, "Arizona legislator pushes bill to combat NSA surveillance," Feb. 1, 2014
U.S. News and World Report, "New legislation would ban NSA from Arizona," Dec. 9, 2013
Interview with Arizona Grassroots Action PAC Executive Director Matt Kenney, May 2, 2016
Interview with Tenth Amendment Center spokesman Mike Maharrey, May 4, 2016
Interview with Arizona State University law professor Paul Bender, May 9, 2016
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