The Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission approved the results of its comprehensive audit of Democratic Rep. Jesus Rubalcava, who stands accused of a series of campaign finance violations that could result in his eviction from office.
The audit stemmed from a random spot-check audit that threw up a series of red flags in Rubalcava’s publicly funded 2016 campaign for the state House in Legislative District 4.
Clean Elections Executive Director Tom Collins said based on the preliminary and final audit, Rubalcava’s campaign accounting was a mess.
“There are substantial questions about virtually every expenditure, whether they be personal, campaign or otherwise, that occurred during this campaign,” Collins said.
Rubalcava has been so far unable to clear things up by providing additional documentation. Speaking at the commission meeting May 18 by phone, he said he knew his accounting was troubled, but he’s been cooperating with the auditors to the best of his ability.
The most damning of the audit’s findings is that, among several other infractions, Rubalcava commingled his personal funds with campaign funds and used campaign dollars to pay for personal expenses like out-of-state flights, hotels and meals.
Those two violations alone, if proven, are enough for the commission to seek Rubalcava’s expulsion from office under the Clean Elections Act.
State law says that any violation of laws requiring candidates to establish separate campaign bank accounts, or requiring candidates to return unused campaign money “shall result in disqualification of a candidate or forfeiture of office.”
That process, however, would only begin if a formal complaint is filed by Collins, who stressed to the commission that they were only adopting the results of the audit at the meeting, and that any possible enforcement measures would come after and separately from the audit.
After scouring Rubalcava’s campaign finance reports and bank statements, the auditors found a series of red flags, starting with the fact that Rubalcava didn’t deposit his initial Clean Elections funding in his campaign bank account.
Instead, he deposited it into his personal account, and later transferred $13,280 from his personal account to his campaign account. But the remaining $2,763 of Clean Elections funding wasn’t transferred.
Auditors also noted Rubalcava didn’t establish a petty cash fund, as required by law, and made repeated ATM withdrawals from his campaign account, which were not reported on his campaign finance reports.
He also made $4,653 in non-campaign withdrawals from his campaign fund, and another $3,635 in campaign withdrawals did not have a determinable purpose, according to the auditors. In total, the auditors found $9,209 in spending that was not included in Rubalcava’s campaign finance reports.
Those monies, auditors said, were used on things like tickets on Southwest Airlines and in-flight services, Starbucks in Los Angeles, hotels in Washington DC, Memphis, San Diego and San Jose.
Additionally, the auditors found Rubalcava violated laws requiring him to report all campaign expenditures and receipts, and Clean Elections rules requiring him to produce documentation for his campaign spending.
Rubalcava, a special education teacher in the Palo Verde Elementary School District, said he would have been able to provide more documentation, but he left it in a box in his classroom over the Christmas break and subsequently lost the box, which he said he hasn’t been able to find.