The FBI is investigating the office of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas as part of its probe into abuse of power by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Arizona Republic reported today.
The article contains little red meat beyond the headline: The newspaper's sources "did not specify what investigators are asking. But those familiar with the inquiry said agents are investigating Thomas' internal operations and alliance with Arpaio."
This is only the latest indication that the feds believe something foul is going on inside the offices of Arpaio and Thomas.
Last May, the Republic reported a similar line of questioning by the feds into Arpaio's shop.
In July, we reported that FBI agents had asked one of our sources about the Sheriff's Command Association, the shady group that tried to funnel anonymous money into Republican Party coffers.
Channel 5 (KPHO-TV) reported in October that the FBI probe was continuing and that agents "may be trying to turn a trusted deputy against the sheriff."
Then, in January, county officials confirmed they had been interviewed by a grand jury, which apparently had been empaneled to look into these questions of abuse.
Barnett Lotstein, one of Thomas' top aides, takes issue with the anonymous leaks about an FBI probe.
"This is a smear campaign by people who don't even have the guts to identify themselves," Lotstein tells New Times. "The article has no details, no specifics."
Because of that, he says, it's difficult to respond specifically. However, he hopes the probe isn't "one-sided."
"Mr. Thomas had previously called for a federal investigation of all the irregularities in Maricopa County," Lotstein says.
Maybe the feds will probe all those irregularities in due time. But by starting with Arpaio and Thomas, it's clear they know their priorities.