The man who headed a group that gave $105,000 to the Arizona Republican Party shortly before last year’s primary election faces a six-figure fine for failing to comply with a judge’s order that he provide the names of his donors - though he did tell the Maricopa County Elections Department he would turn over the names of the donors if their identities would be withheld from the public.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Capt. Joel Fox wrote to the Maricopa County Elections Department in a letter dated June 12, noting he still believes the group known as SCA does not qualify as a political committee and is not subject to disclosure laws. It’s the same argument he’s used many times during the past six months of investigations and hearings.
But there was one notable change.
“If I can be allowed to provide the names to you of those who gave money to SCA, it will be obvious to you that I have been telling the truth the entire time.” Fox wrote.
However, Fox’s argument that the money he collected and spent as SCA – the initials are meaningless, he said in March – isn’t subject to campaign finance laws has been rejected twice. In December, the Elections Department determined SCA became a political committee when it gave the money to the Republican Party.
And last month, an administrative law judge upheld that decision and ruled Fox had 20 days to comply with state law and file campaign finance reports detailing where he got the money or face a $315,000 fine.
The 20-day deadline was June 15, and Fox has not provided the names or filed any financial reports with the county.
In a June 12 response to Fox, attorney Jeffrey Messing, whose firm was hired by the county to prosecute this case, refused Fox’s request.
“The whole point of the Campaign Contribution Statutes is public disclosure. Allowing you to make a secret filing would violate both the letter and the spirit of that law as well as the Arizona Public Records Act,” Messing wrote.
In an e-mail to Messing the following day, Fox said he was not seeking to avoid public disclosure. Rather, he said the money given to SCA doesn’t qualify as political contributions “and if I could have the opportunity to provide that information to (Elections Department Director Karen) Osborne without an automatic public release, she could see for herself that the donations are not campaign contributions and do not require publication.”
Fox cited a $25,000 “donation” made in April 2007 as an example of money that he received long before the election and his decision to give the money to the Arizona Republican Party. He wrote that he couldn’t list that donation as a contribution on a campaign finance report “since I know the donor did not intend for it to influence an election.” Doing so, he continued, would constitute breaking the law.
“If you will not accept my offer, then the only choices you leave me are to file a false report or appeal, and I will not file a false report,” Fox wrote.
In a June 15 letter, Messing wrote he would not “debate the merits of (the judge’s) decision or further extend this exchange of correspondence.”