A judge is set to decide on Monday whether a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Captain Joel Fox deserves to pay $315,000 in penalties for making an improper campaign donation. The upcoming ruling by Judge Thomas Shedden of the state Office of Administrative Hearings is expected to bring some finality to one of the dirtiest episodes of the 2008 election season.
We took a peek today at Fox's final response to the charges, which he filed this month with the Hearings office. As usual, the self-represented Fox uses his "throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks" strategy. To a layperson, his legal arguments make about as much sense as male nipples. For instance, he argues a technicality that the lawyer hired by the county to press the case has no authority in the case. And he says his improper contribution wasn't a contribution because the Republican Party returned it to him.
In other cases, Fox's bald-faced assertions defy reasonable belief.
Fox has maintained he "solicited" contributions from the unnamed group of donors for two years before giving $105,000 to the Republican Party. He says he was just trying to build up a fund to counter some of the negative stereotypes of deputies he believed were being spewed by the news media.
In his latest filing, Fox claims "never was there any discussion with any donor about elections or politics."
Yet Fox knows his beef with the media about the deputies' reputation stems from politics -- and he admitted as much in a recent interview.
In a February video interview of Fox, he said:
"There's this dedicated attempt to remove our sheriff from office, and in the process of that, deputies and detention officers get thrown under the bus," Fox says, adding that the intended target of the media attention wasn't deputies, but the sheriff, "because it's an election."
What we found most amusing in Fox's amateur-hour filing is when he says the county is failing to consider the "timing" of how the events unfolded.
Here's the basic outline of his timeline:
1. Fox sets up bank account two years ago and begins to solicit donations he wished to use later to defend deputies, not to "influence an election" or support a political candidate.
2. In August, when the cash in the account had grown to $105,000, he decides "any ads supporting deputies could be assumed or alleged to be connected with Sheriff Arpaio's re-election campaign. I had never considered this possibility prior to this time..." Fox argues that to avoid that assumption, he decided to give the money to the Republican Party.
3. The Republican Party spent more than $105,000 in operating expenses before it gave money to a group that used it to run smear ads against the political opponents of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Fox says the evidence suggests it makes more sense to claim the Republican Party spent his donation on operating expenses, rather than the ads. (Only one problem with that argument: Had the Republican Party spent its operating expenses on the ads, it wouldn't have been able to, you know, operate).
Here's a different timeline with more facts than Fox uses:
September 2006: Sheriff's Office Director Larry Black buys two Internet domain names. One is called www.sheriffcommand.com. At about the same time, Fox begins putting money in a bank account labeled "SCA," which reportedly stands for "Sheriff's Command Association."
October 2006: Black and Fox set up two political committees, Arizona Association High Ground and Arizona Association High Ground Issues. Black is the chairman and Fox is the treasurer of both entites.
July 30, 2008: Black and Fox terminate the two committees.
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August 21, 2008: Fox makes the first installment on the $105,000 contribution to the Republican Party, drawing from the SCA account.
October 2008: Smear ads against Dan Saban and Tim Nelson run that were paid for by the Republican Party. The ads are so controversial, they are soon taken off the airwaves. A well-connected Republican committeeman, Bruce Ash, writes on a conservative blog that the donation that paid for the ads would never have been made if not for a promise to run the ads. As far as we know, Ash has never denied the truth of his words or how he came by that information.
"The issues only become clouded if assumptions, unfounded inferences, and false conclusions are thought to be true, while also assuming that everything I have presented is false," Fox writes in his filing.