Score one for the white hats. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's re-election campaign was fined $153,978 Tuesday for financing a mailer advocating the defeat of his arch-nemesis, interim County Attorney Rick Romley.
That mailer was to the benefit of Arpaio's bought-and-paid-for toady Bill Montgomery, the guy who takes over from Romley in November. As you no doubt know, Montgomery bested Romley in the GOP primary, and as county Dems failed to field a candidate, Monty becomes C.A., practically by default.
Rewind to August 24. That's when Jeffrey Messing, special counsel to the County Attorney's office, found that TV ads smearing Romley, ads paid for by Arpaio's campaign to the estimated tune of $700K, did not violate state campaign laws.
However, Messing said that an Arpaio mailer advocating Romley's defeat did violate state campaign laws. Messing determined that the mailer represented an "in-kind contribution" to Montgomery, and therefore exceeded contribution limits.
Messing ordered Arpaio's campaign committee to detail the cost of producing the mailer so that Messing's office could assess the specified civil penalty of three times that amount. On September 8, Arpaio's minions complied, informing Messing's office that the price tag for the mailer was $51,736.
Minus the current $410 spending limit, times three, that comes to right around $154K, which Joe has to pony up by October 14 or request a hearing to contest Messing's dictate.
Though Joe's Mr. Moneybags these days, with cash on hand in his campaign coffers of $1.8 million, I suspect the ol' skinflint will contest it.
Messing's August 24 order also stated that Arpaio's committee had to disclose the total amount paid for the anti-Romley TV ads. But there's nothing in today's order indicating that amount was given.
So Joe finally gets fined for something. And the good news is, unlike the $43 million in lawsuit settlements paid out over the years due to the mismanagement of Arpaio's jails, county taxpayers don't have to foot the bill. Rather, Joe's campaign will.
Personally, I wish they could take it out of Montgomery's hide. But I suspect our sadistic, near-senile sheriff will get a few kilos of flesh from Montgomery's puny frame on his own. That is, once Montgomery slithers his way into Romley's old office.
(UPDATE: Please see latest blog entry on this subject, here.)