A small group of lobbyists with Husk Partners met in an office at the firm as allegations of a Fiesta Bowl scandal involving illegal political contributions swirled.
Lobbyists John MacDonald, Dana Paschke and Dean Miller made a pact of sorts as they looked over the statute outlawing reimbursement of contributions, according to a search warrant affidavit that provides details of an investigation into the firm’s recently indicted head, Gary Husk.
“When deciding what to do, they each agreed that if they were ever asked about receiving reimbursements, they would tell the truth, because in Paschke’s words . . . ‘It is what it is,’” read the affidavit written by Attorney General investigator Tina McMillion.
The three lobbyists and others were listed in Husk’s Oct. 10 indictment as having participated in a conspiracy to make illegal contributions to various political campaigns from 2001 to 2012, but they have not been charged.
The March 8, 2012, affidavit gives a glimpse into how the three lobbyists cooperated with investigators in building a case against Husk and his firm, who are charged with eight counts each of prohibited contributions.
Husk pleaded not guilty today in Maricopa County Superior Court. His attorney, Rick Romley, said the indictment is Attorney General Tom Horne’s attempt at saving face after Romley proved to investigators through documents that Husk wasn’t the mastermind of the Fiesta Bowl scandal. That had been alleged by the former Executive Director John Junker and Chief Financial Officer Natalie Wisneski, who pleaded guilty for their parts in the scandal.
None of the charges against Husk relate to the Fiesta Bowl case.
According to the search warrant affidavit, Paschke spoke under an immunity agreement. MacDonald and Miller each gave “free talks,” interviews in which the state agrees not to hold anything against them. Free talks are typically accompanied with a written agreement.
MacDonald eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to cooperate in the investigation.
Edward Sanchez, a lobbyist with the firm who allegedly was reimbursed for his contributions to various campaigns, was subpoenaed to testify in front of a state grand jury investigating Husk. Sanchez also was not charged.
Romley said the firm’s office manager, Velma Martin-Moon, who was in charge of writing checks, has said Husk never authorized reimbursements and she has never changed her story.
“They chose to believe (the lobbyists),” Romley said.
The search warrant affidavit indicates investigators were after Husk’s cell phone records. They were also investigating him for possible witness tampering for allegedly trying to tell some of the lobbyists what to tell investigators. However, the indictment contains no such charges.
Lobbyists in the office were encouraged to give political contributions.
Paschke said she would often give on her own accord and never be reimbursed, but whenever Husk asked her to make a contribution she would come to work a few weeks later to find a check from the firm on her desk.
Miller said reimbursements were never discussed, but he would also get checks from the firm after contributions he made at the request of Husk.
MacDonald said he got reimbursements, but he didn’t know it was illegal.
“Because MacDonald trusted Husk as a friend, an attorney, an experienced prosecutor and lobbyist, MacDonald never considered that to do so could be a problem,” McMillion wrote.
Husk and his firm were charged in May, but they weren’t served with the indictment until Oct. 10. According to a motion to unseal the affidavit, the reason for the lengthy delay between indictment and service was the state and Husk was in negotiations. Romley said that is a lie.
“The truth of the matter is they didn’t have their arms around the investigation,” Romley said.
Romley, Maricopa County Attorney from 1988 to 2004, said the negotiations were basically him pointing out to the state where it was wrong. He said Husk also gave investigators tips to follow in the Fiesta Bowl investigation. A motion filed with the state asserts that the tips went nowhere.
Romley said during that period Husk offered to give free talks and testify in front of the grand jury, but those offers were rejected.
Husk is scheduled to appear in court again on Dec. 2 for a pretrial conference.