4
| News |

SCA-Gate Investigator to MCSO Commander Joel Fox: Show Us the Records

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

An independent law firm investigating whether a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office commander illegally funneled money to the Arizona Republican Party is demanding that the commander produce a list of donors by December 1.

But, in a letter to that investigator, Commander Joel Fox (pictured above) insists he's done nothing wrong -- and needn't turn over anything.

The stunning back-and-forth can be read in PDFs here and  here.

To date, sheriff's Commander Fox is the only person who's been publicly linked to the shadowy SCA, or Sheriff's Command Association, which donated $105,000 to the Arizona Republican Party just before the fall election.

Democrats complained that the money had been collected illegally, and argued that it was used to finance a pair of slimy ads targeting opponents of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. The party insisted that the money didn't pay for the commercials -- but it was forced to return the donation after Fox refused to cough up a list of donors.

Now Fox is refusing to provide that information to the independent law firm investigating the group on behalf of the Maricopa County Recorder. (The County Attorney's Office, which would normally investigate the matter, had to recuse itself because of the allegation involving Thomas.)

In an undated letter to the investigator, attorney Jeffrey Messing, Commander Fox insisted that his group is not a political action committee.

"The purpose of this account was to address the constant battering of Deputies, Detention Officers and employees of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office by the media," Fox wrote. "It was my intent, upon establishing the fund, to address these lies with publications, advertising, or other forms of communication."

Fox doesn't say how, or why, he decided to instead make a six-figure donation to the Arizona Republican Party. But he does insist that, because the group wasn't organized with the intent of influencing elections, "there are obviously no requirements for filing campaign finance reports."

Oh, really?

That's certainly not how attorney Messing sees it.

"Your assertion that SCA is not a political committee because it was not originally organized to influence elections ignores the language of [state law]," Messing wrote Fox on Monday. The law, Messing explained, says a political action committee is any group that is organized or "conducted" for the purpose of influencing an election -- which would clearly include any group making a six-figure donation to a political party.

"Whatever the original intent," Messing concluded, "once you made the decision to contribute SCA funds to the Arizona Republican Party, you transformed SCA into a political committee."

What that means: SCA will have to publicly disclose exactly who contributed money, and when, or face a fine of three times the amount it expended -- in this case, up to $315,000. With a fine that steep, we can't imagine Fox would continue to stall ... unless, of course, he's got some big-name donors (Hendershott? Arpaio himself?) he's desperate to hide.

Messing declined comment, other than to confirm that his investigation is ongoing. That makes two of them: As we reported last week, the Arizona Secretary of State's Office also launched an inquiry into the SCA matter, and found "probable cause" that the Arizona Republican Party had violated the law. That matter is now in the hands of Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard's office.

The Arizona Republican Party, like Fox, continues to insist that it did nothing wrong.

Kudos to the Arizona Capitol Times, which first broke this story and continues to beat much bigger media outlets -- including the Arizona Republic -- in its ongoing coverage. The paper's latest scoop is online here. -- Sarah Fenske

 

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.