PHOENIX — A defamation lawsuit filed by a Prescott mayoral candidate against a political consultant over his campaign against her has been settled by the consultant’s insurer.
The Arizona Republic reports the undisclosed payout to Mary Beth Hrin came several months after consultant Max Fose’s attorney vowed to fight the case.
Fose had led the Arizona Voter Education Project, which this summer mailed fliers to Prescott voters containing information that Hrin has called “false, intentionally harmful” and that she said contained “misleading defamatory material.”
The Arizona Voter Education Project is considered a dark-money group because it does not have to disclose its donors.
Such groups in recent years have become prevalent in local and statewide elections.
They are popular because donors can give unlimited sums of money to the nonprofit groups without publicly disclosing their identities. The groups then can launch attacks on candidates with little or no clear information on who is behind them.
Hrin argued that Fose produced fliers that took a medical-bill lien and an insurance claim of hers out of context by lifting language from public documents.
She alleged the fliers put her in a false light. She lost this year’s Prescott mayoral race.
Chris Jensen, Hrin’s attorney, said the settlement prevents his client from interviewing Fose to find out who paid for what he called “false attacks” against Hrin.
Hrin said Friday in a statement that “this settlement proves the assault on my reputation was false.”
Fose said his insurer opted to settle the lawsuit against his wishes.
“I voted to fight her and win in court; we ran a clean, truthful and effective campaign and I wanted to prove it for everyone to see,” Fose said in a statement. “Insurance companies, though, dislike lawsuits and settled for a very nominal amount against my wishes and the clear recommendation of my attorneys.”
Fose also pointed to a recent ruling by Prescott City Attorney Jon Paladini, who found that Fose and his organization did not violate state campaign-finance laws. Paladini’s findings came in response to separate city complaints filed by Hrin.
Guidestar, an online clearinghouse for 2.5 million non-profit organizations, said the Arizona Voter Education Project lost its federal tax exemption from the Internal Revenue Service because it failed to publicly release its tax-return forms as required by law.