Maricopa Strong, a recently formed independent expenditure committee with a Phoenix address, has been sending anti-Sheriff Joe Arpaio mailers to Republicans in Maricopa County over the past couple of weeks.
According to sources with knowledge of the committee, Maricopa Strong is the creation of BerlinRosen, a liberal political consulting firm with offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., and California, that boasts strong ties to New York's Democratic Mayor Bill De Blasio, as well as progressive billionaire and right-wing bête noire George Soros.
Contacted by phone, BerlinRosen co-founder Valerie Berlin would only say that she is not authorized to speak on behalf of the committee.
A call to the Richmond, Virginia, phone number listed on Maricopa Strong's statement of organization with Maricopa County Elections was not immediately returned. But both that number and the committee's chairwoman, Whitney Tymas, have been associated with independent expenditure committees in other states that have been financed by Soros and have paid BerlinRosen for services rendered.
For example, according to campaign-finance records filed with the state of Florida, Tymas is listed as both the chair and treasurer of the Florida Justice and Safety Committee, which was financed to the tune of $1.3 million by Soros and paid BerlinRosen almost the same amount of money for TV ad buys and mailers to attack Jeff Ashton, Florida State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, in his recent Democratic primary battle against newcomer Aramis Ayala.
With the help of the Soros-financed IE, Ayala, an African-American woman, bested Ashton by nearly 14 percentage points in the August 30 Florida primary, de facto becoming the local prosecutor for that district, as the Republicans did not field a candidate. Soros' influence was a major topic of discussion during the race.
A recent Politico article painted Florida Justice and Safety as part of a nationwide campaign by Soros to effect radical change to America's criminal-justice system in favor of elected prosecutors that support sentencing reform. To this end, according to Politico, Soros has spent more than $3 million this year on seven local district-attorney races across the country.
As for BerlinRosen, it is credited with helping the liberal De Blasio to become mayor of New York City in 2013. BerlinRosen co-founder Jonathan Rosen has been identified by the New York Times as a "close friend and adviser" of DeBlasio, part of what critics have called a municipal "shadow government" of left-leaning private consultants.
Whether Soros is behind the Maricopa Strong effort remains to be seen. However, Republican voters in the Valley have received at least four mailers from the committee targeting Arpaio over various scandals that have marred his time in office: from the multimillion-dollar cost of his myriad legal battles to his office's botching of hundreds of sex-crime cases in El Mirage and elsewhere to U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow's recent referral to federal authorities of criminal-contempt cases against Arpaio and his subordinates.
"Thirteen year-old Sabrina was repeatedly raped by her uncle," reads one mailer, citing a particularly egregious case from the MCSO's sex-crimes debacle. "Sheriff Joe did nothing to protect her."
The mailer features a stock photograph of a barefoot girl seated in a corner, her face hidden by her long dark hair.
Another mailer features an image of Arpaio holding a bucketful of greenbacks, accusing the sheriff of "using our money to clean up his messes instead of keeping us safe."
Sources indicate that Maricopa Strong is prepared to spend six figures or more to oust Arpaio, a Republican, who is running for his seventh term in office against Democratic rival Paul Penzone, who failed to unseat Arpaio in 2012; in that three-way contest, Arpaio eked out a win with a bare majority of the vote.
This year, Arpaio and Penzone face each other without a third wheel to draw anti-Arpaio votes away from Penzone. A recent poll by Republican political operative Nathan Sproul showed Penzone running three percentage points ahead of Arpaio, 45 percent to 42 percent.
Still, Penzone faces a significant deficit in fundraising, with about $211,000 in cash on hand to Arpaio's $2.3 million, according to the most recent campaign-finance reports on file with Maricopa County Elections.
Hypothetically, Maricopa Strong could help Penzone close that gap, giving the embattled Arpaio, truly, the run of his life.