Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Campaign Finance Reports Show Thousands of Anonymous Donors

We will admit to being a glutton for the sort of details that most people (wisely?) dismiss as boring. And so, while reporting this week's feature on the SCA campaign finance scandal now plaguing the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, we literally spent two days studying Sheriff Joe Arpaio's campaign finance reports.

We needed to find out, after all, whether donors to the no-longer-secret SCA fund had already given the max to Arpaio's campaign. And since county election records are not searchable by name, like state records, that meant a long, tough slog through thousands of pages of reports.

Did we mention that we're masochists?

Fortunately there was a payoff. We learned that some donors to the fund -- like Sheriff's Office employees Brian Sands and Scott Freeman -- had in fact given Arpaio the max. So did developer Steve Ellman and his buddy James Wikert, two of the fund's most generous donors.

We also learned that Sheriff Arpaio has been attracting a virtual shitload of anonymous donations.

Campaign finance law requires politicians to disclose all donors to their funds, of course -- but only if they donate $25 or more. Anything less is simply reported as a lump sum.

And what a lump sum Arpaio attracted in the last election cycle!

Arpaio's reports show that he collected a staggering $66,832 from small-time donors. That's the equivalent of 3,341 people taking the time to give the sheriff $20 each -- meaning he averaged more than four such donations every day, including weekends, for the last two years.

It's almost unbelievable.

And it's even more stunning in the context of how few small donations typically show up on such reports. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, for example, reported raising just $20 from small donors in the entire two-year cycle. And in 2004, Arpaio himself only managed to get $4,659 from such donors. That's much more in line with what most politicians report.

Arpaio's fundraisers over at Summit Consulting didn't return our call for comment.

Interestingly, Arpaio's other big source of donations weren't the developers and lawyers who typically show up on campaign finance reports. He did get a few such donations -- Eddie Basha and his wife Nadine each kicked in $250, and then of course there's Steve Ellman! -- but an unusual number of Arpaio's donors were either local retirees or his own employees.

We didn't tally up the retirees; you'll just have to take our word on that one. But we can tell you authoratitively that MCSO employees gave Arpaio $23,230 in the two year cycle. That's pretty impressive considering the limit per person is $390.

One final note, on the subject of that limit...

Jason and Jordan Rose -- PR guy and development attorney extraordinaire, respectively -- are big Arpaio fans, so we weren't surprised to see either husband or wife kicking in their $390. What we were surprised to see was that Jordan Rose apparently did it three times. Arpaio's reports show donations from the politically connected attorney in June 2007, December 2007, and October 2008, all for $390. That means Rose technically gave $780 more than the law allows.

It's easy enough to see how it happened. Unlike many campaign finance reports in this digital age, Arpaio's are all handwritten, and no one bothered to tally up the total donations for any donors who gave more than once, as the law requires. We're pretty sure that Rose didn't even realize she'd already given ... and then given again, much less that Arpaio's campaign figured it out.

However, now that we've been petty enough to mention it, we hope they'll be petty enough to refund the two extra contributions. Times are tough; surely the Roses need the money for something else. Umm, right?

When we reached her yesterday, Jordan Rose took the optimistic view. "The bad news is, there clearly was an accounting error," she told us. "The good news is, clearly, I'll be getting a refund."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske