(CN) – Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is suing a group promoting Proposition 127, a clean energy ballot measure, claiming that the organization has defamed him in its attack ads.
The lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Wednesday, alleges that the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona group “falsely and maliciously undermined” Brnovich’s re-election campaign by running commercials that implied he was in the pocket of energy companies.
Proposition 127, a state constitutional amendment, would require utilities to get half of their power from renewable sources by 2030. The group began running attack ads against Brnovich after his office altered the language of the ballot-measure.
Brnovich added the words “irrespective of costs to consumers” to the measure, words the Clean Energy group says is meant to create opposition. Soon after the measure was reworded, opposition to Proposition 127 ran attack ads using the newly added language.
In their own commercials, the Clean Energy group claims that the attorney general changed the language due to $400,000 in campaign donations given to the Republican Attorneys General Association by the utility Arizona Public Service Company’s parent organization. The association has spent more than $1.2 million on Brnovich’s campaign.
In Brnovich’s lawsuit, he claims the ads have brought him into “disrepute, contempt and ridicule” and calls into question his “honesty, integrity, virtue, and reputation.”
“Defendants have stated on numerous ads run on television and/or radio and print ads that Brnovich ‘rigged the system to protect their profits at our expense,’” the complaint says.
In an interview with Capitol Media Services, Brnovich’s attorney Dennis Wilenchik said wording such as “rig” implies illegal election interference.
“Nothing of the sort occurred here,” Wilenchik said in the interview. He added that Brnovich “exercised his duty as Arizona attorney general to assure that the descriptions of ballot measures are fair and accurate and provide necessary and appropriate information to the voting public.”
Big money has been involved in the fight over Proposition 127, with supporters spending more than $18 million and opposition groups, made up mostly of utilities, spending more than $20 million.
In spite of the lawsuit, the Clean Energy group released a new ad Wednesday, saying that Brnovich values “corporate greed ahead of Arizona families.”
“Brnovich’s lawsuit will fail,” said D.J. Quinlan, a spokesman for the Clean Energy group, in a prepared statement Wednesday night.
The lawsuit doesn’t ask for a specific amount, though it asks for punitive damages to “deter such horrendous conduct.”