Valley developer Steve Ellman must feel a bit of deja vu.
Years before we broke the story about his big contribution to the SCA, Ellman knew what it was like to be under suspicion of using the Republican Party to funnel money toward a specific political candidate.
"The recent revelation is consistent with Mr. Ellman's tactics," says former Scottsdale Councilman David Ortega. "It looks like typical Ellman cover. That's what I thought when I saw it."
Ortega, who has an architecture practice in Scottsdale, tells New Times it's possible he may have been targeted by Ellman in 2004 after making strong statements against the developer's former plan to develop the site of the old Los Arcos Mall using subsidies from the city. He doesn't know for certain that Ellman attacked him while he was running for mayor. A complaint over the incident filed by a citizen and submitted to the state Attorney General's office apparently went nowhere.
As the East Valley Tribune reported in September of 2004, Ellman made a $25,000 contribution the Maricopa County Republican Committee in the spring of that year -- the largest individual contribution the committee had seen in six years.
Six days after the donation, the committee formed a group that hammered Ortega in mailers and phone calls to potential voters, ultimately spending about $18,000 on the effort. Mary Manross was re-elected as mayor.
In the SCA case, one potential theory as to what happened -- no, Joel, we don't believe you -- is that Ellman (and others) donated money to the shadowy group with the intention of giving that money to the Republican Party. That way, one might imagine, the Party could fund a smear ad against the political opponent of Ellman's buddy, Sheriff Joe Arpaio without anyone knowing where the money came from.
One sign that Ellman wanted his SCA funds to go to the Republican Party: After the dirty money was returned to its source, Ellman turned around and re-donated the same amount to the Party.
The 2004 donation of $25,000 was more up-front, in that Ellman didn't hide his name that time. But the end result was similar, if you believe critics like Ortega -- Ellman used his money the way he wanted.
"It appears as though Ellman can use the Republican Party as a tool for his, you know, for his clandestine efforts," Ortega says. Conversely, the Republican Party is "very willing to be a tool of a private developer who has certain agendas."
Ortega told the Tribune in 2004 he figured there was enough smoke in the air for an official investigation. A week later, Scottsdale resident Michelle Aubert filed a four-page complaint detailing the issue with the Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard's office.
We're still trying to ascertain whether an investigation ever occurred or not. Goddard's spokewoman, Anne Hilby, is checking for us.
One last interesting thing on this -- the Ellman-Arpaio-Scottsdale connection. As some of you may recall, back in 2001 Sheriff Joe Arpaio offered to put a new Tent City jail on the Los Arcos land. One quasi-news report claims that Ellman "offered to give the land to Arpaio."
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We point this out because it seems to be yet another example of political colloboration between Arpaio and Ellman.
Manross was outraged at the possible deal brewing on the southern porch of the wealthy Valley municipality, calling it a "vindictive move on the part of Ellman," according to one report. Another article has Manross "claiming it was a conspiratorial and vindictive move on the part of Steve Ellman and Sheriff Joe, and a slap at the City of Scottsdale." Manross hasn't yet replied to a voicemail we left for her this afternoon on the issue.
Ellman hasn't said a word about the SCA scandal yet, except through a statement from his attorney in which he denies knowing how his contribution had been spent.
In 2004, he didn't comment on the claims by Ortega, either.