The Valley’s chief prosecutor Andrew Thomas ponied up thousands of dollars in public money earlier this month to promote a new book written by a right-wing radio pundit and produced by a Christian publishing house.
On Tuesday, that decision was criticized harshly by one of Thomas’ political rivals, who said the prosecutor is misusing public money to promote ideological causes.
“He is once again taking money that should be earmarked for public safety and diverting it into political or self promotion,” said Tim Nelson, a Democrat campaigning to unseat Thomas this fall.
Thomas’ office released figures on Tuesday showing it spent $11,500 to help KTAR-FM talk show host Darrell Ankarlo promote his book, “Another Man’s Sombrero: A Conservative Broadcaster’s Undercover Journey Across the Mexican Border.”
The book is advertised as a roving journey by the pundit into Mexico before illegally sneaking back across the U.S. border in an attempt to understand issues facing immigrants.
It was released in June by Nashville-based Christian publishing company Thomas Nelson Inc., which is not connected to either the sitting Republican prosecutor or his challenger.
A spokesman for the county attorney, Barnett Lotstein, said the money went to pay for the exclusive rights to sponsor Ankarlo’s Valley book tour in July. The agreement also allowed Ankarlo to use the county attorney’s seal on advertisements, as well as mention the sponsorship on air.
In return, the county attorney’s office was allowed to distribute pamphlets and brochures at book signings, Lotstein said.
The cash came out of special funds seized in drug and gang investigations, known as RICO funds, and not from taxpayers, Lotstein said. By law, such money is to be spent on efforts to educate the public or investigate similar crimes.
Lotstein defended the spending, saying the money was being used to distribute information that would help “fight against drop houses and related criminal activities.”
“KTAR has served Arizona for more than 80 years,” Lotstein said. “We appreciate their efforts to combat illegal immigration and the spread of Latin American-style violence to Maricopa County.”
Ankarlo could not be reached for comment.
Nelson said the book promotion reeks of partisanship. The money, he said, should have been used to help investigations into drop houses or violent criminals instead of being given to conservative causes.
“This is exactly the type of political posturing that has characterized the last four years under Mr. Thomas,” Nelson said.
One of the pamphlets being distributed at the book signings is one that previously also drew criticism of Thomas.
The 45-page booklet, called the Road Map to Crime Prevention, was produced last year using public money and prominently featured Thomas’s name and photograph.
“Frankly,” Nelson said, “any amount in that nature is too much.”