Arpaio

Randy Pullen, Candidate for Treasurer, Was Investigated in SCA Campaign-Finance Scandal

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See also: -Two of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Top Deputies Have "Love Connection" to SCA Scandal -SCA Report Details Depth of Conspiracy Between MCSO and State GOP

Five years ago, Pullen became one of the most notable figures embroiled in a state criminal investigation of what was known as the "SCA Scandal." Evidence in the case indicated Pullen, then the chair of the State Republican Party, may have been aware that campaign-finance laws were being thwarted. He says he did nothing wrong.

But taking him at his word, the would-be treasurer comes off looking as gullible as a schoolkid -- hook-winked by his a political-consultant friend and the wily Sheriff's Office.

At the heart of the matter, as far as Pullen's involvement is concerned, was a suspicious donation of $105,000 to the state GOP in August of 2008.

The allegations investigated by the state concerned how the state GOP, headed by Pullen, conspired with Sheriff Arpaio's office to fund a smear-ad against Arpaio's 2008 opponent, Dan Saban, with money raised secretly from wealthy Arpaio supporters.

Arpaio and his top aides, Dave Hendershott and Larry Black, who doubled as the longtime sheriff's campaign workers, were eager to see Saban's name trashed with Saban's own court testimony from a failed defamation lawsuit against Arpaio. But they couldn't legally donate the cash they and their wealthy buddies raised to the Republican Party specifically for a pro-Arpaio ad -- that would be illegal earmarking of funds. So, after raising the money, the sheriff's men met with Pullen's friend, GOP political consultant Chris Baker, who acted as a go-between. Baker soon took an $80,000 check that Black had given him to the state Republican Party headquarters.

When Pullen received the check, he noticed two important things about it: One, it was by far the largest check he'd received for the party in that election cycle. And two, the check was from something called the "SCA," an "unincorporated association of individuals."

Big checks like that usually were not deposited until the party knew who was doing the donating, said the state Republican Party's finance director at that time, Amy Lynn Gordon. She informed state investigator Mike Edwards that Pullen told her -- over her objections -- to deposit the money immediately in the party's state account.

The day after the check came in, Pullen and another GOP official formed the independent-expenditure group that was behind the R-rated, anti-Saban TV ad. Three weeks later, Baker delivered another check from the mysterious "SCA," this one for $25,000.

Pullen soon had $78,000 transferred from the state GOP account to the new group. The state investigation concluded that the money was used to produce and run the anti-Saban ad. It aired for one day that October before being yanked because of public outrage. SCA money was also used by the state GOP for a controversial ad supporting former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who was disbarred in 2011 for abusing his power.

After the anti-Saban ad ran, Democratic Party officials pulled the state GOP's election finance reports and saw that the GOP had accepted the large donations from an unnamed group, the "SCA." That's when the scheme began to unravel. The state elections department found the allegations compelling enough to refer to the state Attorney General's Office, which began an investigation.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.