Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon Is Paying His Girlfriend, Elissa Mullany, Big Bucks

In the spring of 2008, roughly six months after Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon coasted to re-election, he officially began dating his fundraiser.

Plenty of things about this relationship might, in a more puritanical time, have started tongues wagging. At 58, Gordon is two decades older than his paramour, 38-year-old Elissa Mullany. And while both Gordon and Mullany were separated from their spouses at the time they started dating, both have young families — and at that point, no one in either marriage had gotten around to filing for divorce. Perhaps that's one reason why, even though this was the worst-kept secret in town, the pair didn't officially confirm their relationship until last week.

But if they expected criticism over the timing, well, this isn't 1950. In these morally expansive, economically depressed times, the thing about Gordon and Mullany that has Phoenix talking isn't the relationship.

It's the money.

Since his re-election campaign wrapped up in December 2007, Gordon has paid Mullany's two-person limited liability company a total of $140,000. He's paid her through his campaign finance committee, even though she hasn't raised any money for it since the election. He's also paid her through the committee he set up to explore amending the charter and the federal political action committee he set up to lobby for the city in Washington, D.C. And while the federal PAC, at least, has been actively raising money, it's hardly enough to justify paying Mullany $8,000 a month, as the committee did throughout 2008.

Those monthly payments were scaled back this year: Mullany now earns a percentage of what she raises, not a flat fee. That's a more typical arrangement than the setup during the committee's first year of operation.

But despite the organizational changes, Mullany's total profits are still abnormally high, when considered over the life of the committee. Through its most recent filing, in July, the committee has paid Mullany close to $40 for every $100 raised.

That's much higher than the 15 to 20 percent that fundraisers typically enjoy.

And that's not all.

Around the same time they started dating, Gordon appointed Mullany to his much-hyped "Phoenix Global Trade Initiative," a partnership between City Hall and the local business community designed to market Phoenix internationally. But when the initiative folded one year after its formation, in February 2009, it had managed to do just three things.

One, it paid Mullany's company $12,000 for organizing a fundraising breakfast.

Two, it flew Mullany and three other Initiative members to Dubai.

Three, it flew Mayor Gordon to Israel — at a time when Mullany just happened to be there on her own dime.

Anyone notice a common thread here?

"In general, any time you're in a situation where a person in elected office is paying a close friend, family member, or someone they're romantically involved with, it raises serious questions about whether that person is in a position of merit," says Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

"And certainly, with campaign money, the people who have donated to his campaign should take a pretty acute interest in anything like this."


There's good reason that Mayor Gordon's newly hired public relations guru, Jason Rose, makes a point of saying that Gordon and Mullany don't live together, and that they don't share a bank account.

According to campaign finance experts, the payments I've just detailed would likely be illegal if they did.

The law bars public officials from using campaign finance cash for their personal benefit, says Lisa Hauser, an attorney at Gammage & Burnham. That prohibition also extends to anyone who's related by "blood or marriage," Hauser says.

Crazily enough, that means the mayor couldn't pay his estranged wife from his committee, even if she did the same work. But his girlfriend is fair game.

"The only time that a payment to someone you're not related to by blood or marriage might be worth looking into is if those payments result in personal benefit to the candidate," Hauser told me. In essence, Gordon is in trouble only if the payments to Mullany have been subsidizing his lifestyle.

For the record, Rose insists that Mullany has worked hard for every penny she's earned. She doesn't just work for Gordon, he points out: her company has raised money for council members Tom Simplot and Sal DiCiccio, too. For Gordon, Rose says, she's been both raising money and working on strategy.

Term limits bar Gordon from seeking a third term as mayor, and he recently told the Arizona Republic that he'll enter the private sector when his term expires in 2011. But he wasn't always this ready to retire. For nearly a year, the mayor entertained ideas of fighting for a charter amendment that would let him stay on despite term limits, Rose acknowledges. He also, at one point, was threatened with a recall effort.

But the charter amendment plan was aborted when a poll commissioned by Gordon's campaign showed no support for the idea. The plan never really got off the ground: When I first caught wind of it, at the beginning of 2009, it took a full day just to find someone able to go on the record with a few sound bites to describe it. This was never a particularly well-organized effort — which might be one reason it fell so short.

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S
S

Wow.....another Mark Sanford!! Run off with your mistress/sex buddy while the wife runs the show. Sadly they are both dishonest and not forthcoming with the truth to the public. Just ask the right people. This relationship has been going on much longer than he/she states. Two more families hurt again by a sex scandal. Officially today, 12/09, they are BOTH still married. She has benefited way too much $. Where's Sheriff Joe? There needs to be an investigation BIG TIME.

 bruce
bruce

gorden is just another liberal whore master who's' sanctuary policy has made phoenix the kidnap capital of America.

Chris Long
Chris Long

Gee, we have Arpaio, Thomas, Gordon, Napolitano, Romley, Symington, Meacham, DeConcini et al.

Anyone, uh 9ahem) notice a trend therein in Az politics and law ?

Ya'll are trying to plink away at this with a BB gun, when what's needed is the biggest bore scattergun you can get...

tyler
tyler

Sarah is right on with this story.

Maltese Falcon
Maltese Falcon

This story is comical. It has irrelevant facts uses useless facts to draw conclusions. More comical is Fenske criticizing the legitimate daily and saying she was developing this story. That is complete BS. Fenske trolls record requests made by the Arizona Republic and then requests the same information. Because she does not have to use sources or facts, she just writes whatever she wants by objectifying her conclusions beforehand. She comes up with a headline and then makes things up to write the story around the headline.

And for her to be crirical of someone who benefitted from a significant other? Hello pot meet the kettle. I saw Fenske making out with the publisher of her own paper at the Arizona Press Awards dinner a couple of years ago. So it seems she was benefitting financially from her boyfriend, who apparently dumped her.

d
d

So is the lady his mistress and Gordon her sugar daddy since they are not divorced form their respective spouses?

Buzzcut Barbie
Buzzcut Barbie

Well at least Gordon isnt fucking Thelda Williams, at least that would be disgusting. His current chick is a bit hefty, but hes 58- beggars cant be choosers.

 
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