Maricopa County Elections Department Director Karen Osborne referred the SCA case to his office earlier this month -- saying she'd found reasonable cause to believe that "a number of individuals and entities acted alone and in concert" to violate state campaign finance law.
But Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas hasn't decided whether to forward the case for prosecution, the Arizona Capitol Times reported earlier this week.
This guy can't even decide how to handle a clear-cut criminal referral, yet he thinks he should be the state's top law enforcement officer? Talk about hubris.
A little background: During Thomas's 2008 run for reelection, a shadowy group funneled $105,000 to the Arizona Republican Party, which then used nearly exactly the same amount to finance nasty ads attacking the opponents of both Thomas and his political BFF, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. For nine months, the group resisted revealing its donors -- only to ultimately reveal that they included both high-ranking sheriff's officers, a rich friend of Arpaio's, and out-of-state limited liability companies.
Why that matters? Contributions from limited liability companies are illegal. The Arpaio connections suggest the supposedly independent expenditure was earmarked for the sheriff's race and that of his friend Thomas, which would also be illegal. And, the system of transfers appears to have been designed to conceal the money's true source. That's illegal, too.
So where, exactly, is the county attorney today? Well, despite that referral from the county's election director, he's absent -- too busy filing his petitions for another run for office, this time to be attorney general -- to decide what to do about the case.
Thomas, of course, can't prosecute this case himself. (The fact that the money benefited his campaign is a huge conflict.) But he can refer it to another law enforcement agency -- and he should.
In fact, he could refer it to current Attorney General Terry Goddard, who clearly has an investigation of his own already underway. But we suspect Thomas doesn't want to do that because he and Arpaio would hate to give Goddard's investigation legitimacy -- they'd rather reserve the chance to gripe about Goddard's supposed partisanship, should this thing end with their friends or supporters or employees getting indicted.
So Thomas's spokesman, Mike Anthony Scerbo, told New Times last week that the matter is still under review. That comment was echoed in the Cap Times on Monday.
"Thomas, whose office has not decided whether to seek the prosecution of SCA contributors or Fox, said he was not concerned whether the advertisement of the potential fallout would affect his prospects for attorney general," Christian Palmer reported.
How much do you want to bet they're just hoping this thing goes away?
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In other SCA news, blogger Nick Martin had an interesting scoop last week. Martin broke the news that former East Valley Tribune reporter Dennis Welch was questioned by investigators at the AG's office who were curious about the timing of a public records request Welch made to the sheriff's office, asking for the deposition of Arpaio's opponent, Dan Saban. Welch apparently asked for the records around the same time as the Arizona Republican Party, Martin reported And, of course, the depo served as the basis of the GOP-financed ad attacking Saban.
If Welch put in the request at the sheriff's urging, that would be yet another indication that Arpaio's office was coordinating with the AZ GOP for the supposedly independent ad, Martin writes.
But if the AG was seeking enlightenment as to Welch's sources, he may have been a tad disappointed.
The busy reporter couldn't remember what prompted his request, Martin reports.