We've given it the old college try, but State Representative Jim Weiers (R-Phoenix) apparently doesn't want to talk about his reported role in the SCA criminal investigation.
As our article on the campaign-finance scandal this week and previous blog posts mention, Weiers' name came up in the 802-page report on the state Attorney General's investigation. No indictments ever were produced in the probe of campaign hijinks from the 2008 election. However, the case was deferred to the U.S. Attorney's Office last month by state AG Tom Horne, and the feds are apparently looking at the SCA scam as well as other alleged abuses by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's top people.
Weiers comes in as a possible link between the state Republican Party and two of Arpaio's henchmen, Larry Black and Joel Fox, in an alleged money-laundering scheme aimed at helping Arpaio's 2008 bid for office.
As this week's article, "Love Connection," explains, Baker's a GOP political consultant and Weiers' friend. The state lawmaker, in turn, is a strong supporter of Arpaio and has a kid who works in the Sheriff's Office.
When interviewed by state investigators and the FBI, Baker said he met Fox and Black after he was contacted by Weiers in early 2008.
By that time, Fox and Black had amassed more than $110,000 in contributions from corporations, members of an exclusive sheriff's posse, and several of Arpaio's top commanders. Under the likely guidance of Black's boss, Chief Deputy David Hendershott, Black and Fox sought a way to put the donations to a political use.
"Jim Weirs (sic) said there were some people interested in becoming involved in county races," Baker said, according to the SCA report.
That statement alone raises a huge red flag. By law, the money in the SCA fund could not be donated with the purpose of influencing any county race -- that's called illegal earmarking.
Baker told investigators that Weiers didn't give him any contact information for Black or Fox, just that "Baker would be receiving a call from one of them."
Baker went on to state that he he'd had many meetings with Weiers about legislative bills, and maybe he had chatted with Weiers about Fox and Black during one of those meetings.
In any case, Baker did meet with Fox and Black, and "they indicated they were supportive of Republicans and county races."
Well, no duh -- Black is the self-described "political hack" for Arpaio, and the report shows that Hendershott -- Arpaio's campaign manager -- was involved in every aspect of raising funds for the SCA account. The jobs of Hendershott, Black and Fox almost certainly depended on Arpaio being re-elected. Gee, could they possibly be supportive of county races like, hmm, give us a minute, oh yeah -- Sheriff Arpaio's?
As you may know from our previous articles, $105,000 was handed to Baker by Black in two separate checks. The first one, given to Baker on August 21, 2008, was for $80,000; another for $25,000 was given to Baker three weeks later. The bulk of the money was used by Baker and Randy Pullen, then the chairman of the state GOP, to create a smear ad that targeted Arpaio's Democratic opponent in 2008, Dan Saban. The report states that Pullen was overheard on October 1, 2008, the night the ad ran, saying the SCA money was donated to the Party specifically to fund the ad.
The former head of internal affairs for Arpaio told the FBI that Black had worked on the raw material for the anti-Saban ad, and that it was "common talk/knowledge" around the office that the SCA money would be used to fund the ad.
When investigators interviewed Black on May 11, 2009, Black said he knew of Weiers and had met him, but didn't think Weiers knew him. Weiers had been to Arpaio's 19th floor headquarters several times, Black stated.
Black stated that "he did not make a specific call to Jim Weiers" about the SCA money or donating to the Republican Party.
"He might have been someplace and Jim Weiers was there, and he asked him about it, but he does not have a specific recollection," Black stated cryptically.
Actually, that seems somewhat specific when you boil it down: Black admits he might have asked Weiers about the SCA money, though the time frame is unclear.
On April 30, 2009, state investigator Mike Edwards called Weiers' office. Edwards wanted to meet Weiers for a chat, but the former House Speaker asked if the interview could just be over the phone.
Weiers has known Baker for years and considers him a friend, Weiers told Edwards.
"I asked if he remember contacting Chris Baker in the summer of 2008 and telling Chris Baker that there were some people interested in donating money to the Republican Party, and could Chris Baker meet with them," Edwards wrote in his report. "Representative Weiers said he did not remember that."
Weiers went on to say that neither Sheriff Arpaio nor Hendershott contacted him to set up a meeting, and that he didn't know Fox or Black.
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Fox was interviewed during the April 27, 2009, search of his home for evidence related to the suspected campaign crimes. He told investigators he didn't know Weiers or Baker.
So, who's lying -- Baker, Black, Fox or Weiers? Maybe all four?
Weiers, who was reelected to District 10 in 2010, has not returned repeated calls we made to his office. That doesn't mean Weier's a liar. But he certainly ain't helping clear up the confusion.