Senator Robert Meza Files Election Complaint Against Team Awesome, A Volunteer Group of Mostly Students Campaigning for His Opponent

See also Local Latino Activists Target Unlikely Politician

Senator Robert Meza is accused of being out of touch with the mostly Latino community that he represents.

And he isn't doing himself any favors with a complaint he filed with the Secretary of State on July 16 against a group of student volunteers working for his opponent.

So far, he's filed three election-related complaints. In his latest, Meza charges that Team Awesome, a group that includes DREAM Act students, is violating state law because it hasn't registered as a political committee.

Team Awesome volunteers are walking neighborhoods, handing out campaign literature and have hosted at least one block party to introduce residents to certain political candidates.

The problem is Meza, who has been at the state Legislature for a decade, isn't one of them.

Instead, the group has collectively tossed its support behind Raquel Teran, a community activist who is challenging Meza for a Senate seat in Legislative District 30. The group is also supporting Jonathan Larkin, a candidate for the House of Representatives in the same district.

Larkin is running for one of two seats in a race against Mike Snitz, who is Meza's boyfriend, and state Representative Debbie McCune-Davis, who is endorsing Meza and has been at the legislature since 1978.

Snitz and McCune-Davis also signed the July 16 complaint, which includes other allegations that Larkin and Teran accepted unlawful campaign contributions.

The matter is being reviewed by the state elections department.

We have to wonder where Meza and his complaints were when the same group of students was walking the streets of Phoenix campaigning for Mayor Greg Stanton, one of Meza's supporters.

Now, we're no legal experts .... and, as we mentioned, state elections officials are going to sort this all out, but state law indicates that a political committee has to be formed when a group "intends to accept contributions or make expenditures" in a campaign.

That hasn't been the case with Team Awesome. They say they're raising the bar for elected officials, not raising money.

State law also defines what a contribution is -- and isn't. (See 5b) It specifically states that volunteers' services do not count as contributions toward a political campaign.

As for the block party with food and games, state law says that political contributions also preclude the cost of "food and beverages voluntarily provided by an individual to any candidate" as long as doesn't exceed $100.

Another complaint filed by Meza against Teran on April 26, points out that Teran's campaign literature omitted the phrase "Paid for by."

Danny Ortega, a Phoenix attorney representing Teran's political committee, noted in a response to the Secretary of State that it was an oversight, and that as soon as they became aware that the required disclosure was missing, they destroyed the campaign literature.

He also says that even before Meza filed his complaint, they had already printed that mandatory phrase on other election materials.

Meza has drawn some criticism over allegedly threatening Tony Valdovino, one of his opponent's young volunteers, with a lawsuit over negative comments he supposedly made about Meza while campaigning in the community.

Valdovino has said that he believes Meza is just trying to intimidate the volunteers and detract from the real issues -- his own lack of representation within the district. Meza hasn't been a vocal representative for the Latino community.

Meza has also had a complaint lodged against him on July 19, also with the Secretary of State, by a West Valley resident who alleged that he misused his campaign money.

Yeah, the races in LD 30 are getting messy.

Voters will decide on August 28 whether they want the old guard to retain power or want to usher in a generation of new leaders.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo