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County: Republican Party had Negative Balance After Illegal Donation Returned; Implies Money Went to Smear Ads

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The Arizona Republican Party last year returned the dirty $105,000 donated by the mysterious "Sheriff's Command Association." But in doing so, it left the party with a massive negative balance.

That's because it had already spent a good chunk of the money, apparently, on a pair of smear ads against the opponents of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

The facts -- as laid out by the county -- seem to support the allegation that the money was given to the Republican Party specifically to pay for the ads. It appears that, but for the $105,000 donation, the party wouldn't have had nearly enough money to pay for the ads.

The new revelations can be seen in the paperwork filed this month for a hearing on the matter scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings. The legal documents by a lawyer hired by the county, Jeffrey Messing, and the man of the hour, Captain Joel Fox of the sheriff's office, seem to bode most poorly for Fox, who is appealing a triple-damages fine.

State Republican Party leader Randy Pullen and treasurer Timothy Lee were ordered to attend the hearing as well. Should be a hoot.

At issue is whether Fox should be on the hook for a $315,000 fine levied against him following his $105,000 donation to the Republican Party three months before November's election.

Fox's final argument is as convoluted as ever. He denies the SCA is a political committee because he's an individual, not a group -- yet the money did come from a group. He says the donation was never intended to influence an election because that would mean, legally speaking, that a specific candidate should be identified. Nevermind that the "S" in SCA stands for "sheriff."

Fox says suggestions that the money was donated to fund the commercials are "flamboyant" and that Messing's investigation shows there was no "intentional donation."

In fact, Messing's investigation -- going by his March 24 filing to the state agency -- strongly implies it was an intentional donation, and Fox's rhetoric can't dig him out of that hole.

The evidence is simply this: The Republican Party had enough money for the smear ads only because of the SCA donation. As Messing's filing shows, the Republican Party filed amended campaign finance reports after it returned the $105,000 to Fox. But by then, it had spent $78,000 on the smear ads. For its amended September 23 to October 15 finance report, the Republican Party showed a negative balance of $72,050.16.

From Messing's report:

"It is not possible for a political committee to have a negative cash balance. It cannot spend more money than it receives, either through contributions or loans. The amended reports, therefore, confirm that the Arizona Republican Party could not have made the $78,000 (payment for the ads) but for Mr. Fox's contribution."


Also fairly damning: Joel Fox and another high-ranking sheriff's official, Larry Black, formed two political committees in 2006 using the same P.O. Box as the SCA.

It looks like Fox better start putting his fundraising skills to a new use: To save his own, personal financial future.

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