Three words, uttered by the lawmaker himself, best sum up Rep. Doug Quelland’s defense against allegations that he violated rules for publicly funded candidates and should be removed from office: Nothing at all.
The west Phoenix Republican has contended that documents showing he was billed for political consulting work were forgeries and that checks his business wrote to the consulting firm were for non- political work.
But when asked if he had any proof the work employees of Intermedia Public Relations did on his campaign was voluntary, and not the result of a contract with the company, Quelland had none.
“Do you have any proof?” attorney Jose Rivera asked Quelland repeatedly about various components of his defense during cross- examination Sept. 22.
“Nothing at all,” Quelland replied.
Testimony before an administrative law judge in Quelland’s appeal wrapped up Sept. 22 after four days, the first two of which were in early August. Attorneys for Quelland and the Citizens Clean Elections Commission will file closing arguments Oct. 13, and Judge Thomas Shedden said he will issue a ruling by Nov. 10.
That ruling, however, will not be binding. Under state law, the Clean Elections Commission can accept, reject or modify an administrative court’s ruling.
The Clean Elections Commission determined in April that Quelland violated Clean Elections rules by hiring Intermedia to run his campaign in March 2007, having his business pay the consulting fees and not reporting the expenditure on campaign finance reports. As a result, the commission determined he should be removed from office.
Quelland, though, has argued that he terminated that contract two days after it was signed and never paid Intermedia for any political work.
He has admitted, however, to paying a total of $9,000 to the PR company for the delivery of fliers to promote his businesses.
He also acknowledged that some Intermedia employees helped his campaign, but he said they did so as volunteers. However, the employees testified they did so because Quelland hired the firm.
The paper trail seems to support the Clean Elections Commission’s contention that Quelland egregiously violated Clean Elections law by spending far more than he was given in public financing. Among the evidence were a contract for political work signed by both Quelland and Intermedia owner Larry Davis, invoices from the consulting firm, receipts indicating Quelland traded rent in his shopping center for political work and checks the lawmaker wrote to Intermedia.
The checks are potentially the most damaging evidence, as they match the dates and amounts specified in the contract that was signed in March 2007, only five months after Quelland lost to Democrat Jackie Thrasher in a re-election bid.
Davis also has produced copies of invoices he said were delivered to Quelland for the campaign work. Those checks included a $2,000 payment from May 2007, which was specified in the contract as the initial deposit for the consulting work.
But Quelland argued that the checks by themselves don’t tell the whole story. Clean Elections investigators should have subpoenaed Intermedia’s financial records to see how the company classified the payment.
“They never investigated the documents,” he said during testimony Sept. 21, pounding his fist on the table in front of him.
The embattled lawmaker said the money was for work Davis’ firm performed to promote Quelland’s businesses, including a now-defunct coffee shop, and he denied receiving Intermedia invoices for political work.
“Number one, I wouldn’t have paid them. Number two, I would have questioned why they were sending them to me,” he said.
Quelland claimed he canceled the contract with Intermedia two days after signing it. He said he found Davis to be “unethical” after the consultant recommended a strategy that included attacks against his Democratic opponent’s family.
The only proof is a copy of a hand-written letter Quelland said he delivered personally to Davis. Davis testified he was never given the letter, and he denied ending the contract early with Quelland.
As the election neared, long after Quelland said he terminated the contract, Davis’ employees were still performing work for the Republican’s campaign.
“So, 19 months later, Brent Eigsti, who works for Intermedia, who put Intermedia on your Web site, is still doing campaign work?” Clean Elections attorney Jose Rivera asked Quelland Sept. 22.
“He says he is,” Quelland replied.
Quelland acknowledged there was no proof the Intermedia employee was working as a volunteer on the campaign.
The same scene played out with every other explanation Quelland had for the Clean Elections Commission’s evidence. He said he never received invoices e-mailed to him, but couldn’t explain why those messages never arrived.
He also couldn’t explain why Intermedia fielded reservations for a pair of breakfast fundraisers, why the company’s name appeared on his Web site or why its fax number was on his business cards.
“They didn’t have my permission to do that,” he said multiple times during cross-examination. Quelland told the court he spoke with the employees and told them not to use Intermedia’s name, but there were no witnesses and no documentation of the conversations.
The employees, meanwhile, testified the lawmaker never objected to their work or Intermedia’s involvement.
On the final day of the hearing, Quelland frustrated the court by feigning ignorance when asked basic questions.
At one point, Judge Shedden stepped in to put a stop to Quelland’s behavior. Clean Elections attorney Rivera had repeatedly asked Quelland a conditional question: If the contents of an e-mail Quelland received in late 2007 were correct, then the employee of the political consulting firm was doing political work for Quelland’s campaign more than six months after the lawmaker said he ended his campaign’s association with the firm.
Quelland stubbornly answered the same way each time Rivera posed the question: “If. If.”
That prompted Shedden to speak directly to Quelland. “I’m sure you understand the nature of a question (that begins with) ‘if,’ so, if (the employee) did enter contributions into the software, would that be political work?” Shedden asked.
The lawmaker quickly responded, “Yes.”
Later, Quelland professed not to know the name of his campaign committee in last year’s election. At another point, Rivera had to walk him through a printout of an e-mail and explain the various lines denoting who sent the message, who received it, when it was sent and what was attached.