Joe Arpaio Used Campaign Cash to Pay Himself Rent Money

A campaign-finance complaint has been filed against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, mostly related to the oodles of cash he's sent over to his campaign manager Chad Willems' company, Summit Consulting.

While we were adding up how much Arpaio's forked over to Summit (more than $1.5 million since January), we happened to notice that Arpaio effectively cut himself a rent check using campaign contributions.

See also:
-Joe Arpaio, Chad Willems, E.J. Montini and the $8 Million Whopper
-Sheriff Joe's Real Estate Game

On January 29, Arpaio's campaign made a $1,200 payment to Ava Investments LLC, which is noted as "monthly rental for campaign office" in Arpaio's campaign-finance forms.

That would be Ava Arpaio, who runs Ava Investments LLC, a company that lists the sheriff as a "manager" in filings with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Although the location of the campaign office hasn't changed from 10632 North 71st Place -- the location of Ava Arpaio's travel agency, and an address that might sound familiar to longtime New Times readers -- that's the only listed payment to Ava Investments.

That may very well be where the campaign-finance complaint comes into play. The complaint, filed by a woman named Irene Montoya Hemphill, raises a few issues, including that there's no way of telling what Willems -- Arpaio's campaign manager -- and Summit Consulting are doing with all that money

As you can see from an example below, Arpaio's campaign isn't too descriptive about what they're paying Summit Consulting for. "TV advertisement" shows up for three payments, "Fund Raising/Adm" shows up for another, and the fifth one is just left up to your imagination:

One might assume that instead of just listing that Arpaio's cutting himself the rent check, that money is sent to Summit before a check it made out to "Ava Investments LLC" -- since that office was still being used as campaign headquarters, as of September 24.

If not, that could be an issue.

Kristi Passarelli, a campaign-finance manager with the county elections department, explained to us that a candidate has to pay rent if they're using a corporate-owned location.

Therefore, since Arpaio just had to pick a spot owned by his wife and himself, he'd have to pay rent to his wife and himself.

Using property that's owned by a corporation without paying that corporation would be perceived as a corporate donation, which is prohibited by law.

So, long story short, Arpaio effectively paid himself, and should still be paying "Ava Investments LLC" for his own good -- and at the expense of the dopes who give him money.

Meanwhile, the citizen complaint -- sent to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Maricopa County Clerk Michael Jeanes -- says "it appears [Arpaio] is funneling nearly everything through the 'Summit Consulting Group,'" which is a claim that would be hard to deny.

"It is acting as a conduit for many of those services and actually contracting out with other campaign operatives to do this work," the complaint says.

State law requires these forms to include "a clear description of the items or services purchased," but it's impossible to tell what the threshold is for specificity is on campaign-finance forms.

The complaint also points to the fact that some of the math is wrong in there, but all the Sheriff's campaign would have to do is yell "oops" to get out of that one. It also accuses Arpaio of campaigning in his MCSO uniform, which won't actually get him in trouble, since that kind of thing is kosher for county sheriffs.

Still, it would be nice to know how that money's being used, for instance, how much of it shows up at the bottom of Willems' ATM receipts.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley