Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 2012 re-election campaign committee will be fined for sending out mailers deemed illegal by the county election department's finance committee because they sought the defeat of Interim Maricopa County Rick Romley.
The order, determined by Jeff Messing, legal counsel to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said the Arpaio committee sent out mailers that effectively advocated against Romley or in favor of Romley's Republican primary foe, Bill Montgomery, in Tuesday's election.
The order also says the committee does not qualify as an independent expenditure group under state law because Arpaio has expressly been authorized to raise and spend money on behalf of Montgomery's campaign. Nor did the committee, the Re-Elect Joe Arpaio 2012 Committee, receive written certification to be a campaign committee from the Arizona Secretary of State as Arpaio publicly campaigned for office during a non-election year for his job.
In a court document obtained by the Tribune, the Re-Elect Joe Arpaio 2012 committee was ordered on Aug. 24 to produce copies of the expenditures on the mailers within 20 days. Arpaio's campaign committee must disclose the amount spent on the mailers because the committee faces a fine of up to three times the amount of what they cost, according to Steve Messing, legal counsel for the Maricopa County Elections Department.
The elections department also ruled that within 20 days, the Re-Elect Joe Arpaio 2012 Committee shall cease designating itself as the Campaign Committee of Sheriff Joseph "Joe" Arpaio.
In Tuesday's Republican primary election for the county attorney's post, former Maricopa County deputy attorney Bill Montgomery, 43, beat Romley by receiving 133,791 or 49.7 percent of the votes to Romley's 101,593 votes (37.7 percent). Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn, who had dropped out of the race but whose name remained on the ballot, finished third by receiving 33,038 votes, or 12.2 percent of the vote.
Romley has not commented as to whether he will sue Arpaio.
Romley stated earlier that the mailers "hurt" his campaign.
The focus of Romley's complaints recently filed with the Maricopa County Elections Department are TV and mailer ads from Arpaio's 2012 campaign committee. The TV ads were not deemed in violation of county election laws, but the written mailers were in violation. In the 15-page report, the elections department ruled that Montgomery authorized Arpaio to raise money and solicit contributions on behalf of Montgomery's campaign for the Republican nomination for county attorney.
Romley had filed two complaints with the Maricopa County Elections Department to seek a determination against the ads.
Because of the committee's findings, The Re-Elect Joe Arpaio 2012 committee will be fined up to three times the amount they cost to send, according to Messing, but the way Arpaio's committee reported its expenditures has made it difficult to determine specific costs.
"We don't know what they have spent on mailers, yet," Messing said. "The committee made some other expenditures, and their costs were totaled together, which makes it hard to tell."
The report on the campaign finance violation issued by the Maricopa County Elections Department on Aug. 24, also says any remaining funds in the committee's control must be disposed of through means spelled out in campaign-finance statutes. Disposal of money can include retaining surplus money for a subsequent election, donating it to charity or returning the money to donors.
The order also says the committee does not qualify as an independent expenditure group under state law because Arpaio has expressly been authorized by Montgomery to raise and spend money on behalf of Montgomery's campaign.
Arpaio's camp contended that it did not advocate the defeat of Romley or the election of Montgomery because the mailers did not urge people to vote against him and vote for Montgomery and did not contain Montgomery's image.
However, Romley's image was printed on one side of the mailer that said: "Rick Romley is "Wrong," His policies "Dangerous." Politician Rick Romley: Opposes SB1070. Opposes Sheriff Joe's Policies on Illegal Immigration," Desperately Wants Sheriff Joe Out of Office, "Too Risky for Arizona Families."
Romley did not return comments this week to see if his office plans to prosecute or sue Arpaio and members of his campaign committee for distributing the mailers and publicly tainting an election.
Arpaio's office did not issue any statement on the looming fine or issue any statements.
An e-mail the Tribune received Friday from William FitzGerald, a county attorney spokesman, said
Romley "has not made a schedule of availability for any of us. He has turned down all interviews ... and we've had a lot of requests. I can't tell you when he will make himself available."