A west Phoenix Democratic activist on Thursday filed a campaign finance complaint with the Secretary of State’s office, claiming Democratic Sen. Robert Meza appears to have used campaign money for personal use and collected illegal campaign contributions.
Esther Durán Lumm, a Democratic precinct committeeman, is asking for an investigation into Meza’s finances. Lumm said she is not connected to Meza’s primary challenger, Raquel Téran, in Legislative District 30.
The complaint comes just days after Meza filed his own complaint with the Secretary of State against Téran, alleging that she and a House candidate have been illegally coordinating with union activists and the Democratic Party.
Lumm’s complaint against Meza cites 15 campaign expenditures in 2009 and 2010 totaling just more than $12,000 made to Meza, and categorized as “miscellaneous-other.”
Lumm explains in her complaint that she finds it curious how so much vaguely categorized money was being used for campaigning, when Meza had no opposition in the primary or general election last election cycle. Lumm asks the Secretary of State to investigate whether Meza took that money for personal use.
Lumm’s complaint also cites a $4,000 credit card payment made in 2010 by Meza to American Express, which is made out to “a.e.” and categorized as “professional services – other.” Using just the initials of the company and categorizing as “professional services,” she argues, appears to be an attempt to obfuscate the nature of the expenditure.
“I’m not accusing him. I’m only asking for an investigation into things that don’t look right to me,” Lumm said. “If there’s nothing there, then good. I would prefer that.”
Meza told the Arizona Capitol Times that the expenditures are standard campaign reimbursements, made in accordance with all campaign finance laws.
Lumm also brings up campaign contributions made by a slew of lobbyists and political action committees that are dated after the beginning of the 2011 legislative session, pointing out that it’s illegal to raise campaign funds during session.
Meza told the Arizona Capitol Times that she made an error reading the report, because the contributions were collected before the session began, but may have been entered into the reporting system a couple weeks later.
“I always throw a fundraiser right before the session starts,” Meza said. “I know better than to collect contributions during the session and those lobbyists know better, too.”
The complaint also says Meza failed to disclose his role with a non-profit corporation he started in 2011, though Meza again says he’s confident he followed the law.
Meza said he would spend the next several days thoroughly reviewing the complaint and his records, and that he’s confident he will be cleared of any violations.
Téran could not immediately be reached to discuss the complaint against Meza.
Meza’s complaint against Téran and LD30 Democratic House candidate Jonathan Larkin says the two received campaign work from a group of Hispanic activists, which was not properly reported as campaign activity. It also says the two received in-kind contributions from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union that were not properly reported.
In early July, Meza also filed a complaint against Téran, saying that her campaign incurred debt in a way that runs afoul of Clean Elections laws.
No action from the Secretary of State’s office or the Clean Elections Commission has resulted from the complaints yet.