Pinal County Attorney candidate Lando Voyles, of Maricopa, and incumbent Sheriff Paul Babeu, of San Tan Valley, both Republicans, said an allegation their respective campaign committees violated campaign finance law is false.
The complaint claims the cost of “robocalls” — calls that play pre-recorded messages from candidates or their supporters — paid for by Babeu’s campaign support Voyles and exceeded the $430 threshold campaigns can legally contribute to each other.
Carolyn Gordon, first vice chairwoman of the Pinal County Democrats, filed the complaint Oct. 11.
Marty Hermanson, Babeu's campaign manager said, “There was no violation between the campaigns.”
Voyles called the complaint “a dirty politic trick,” saying there was no violation.
The robocall said incumbent County Attorney James P. Walsh has released violent criminals and “hardly ever shows up for work.”
Neither Voyles’ name nor campaign are mentioned in the call’s script.
However, Gordon's complaint maintained the calls were “urging the defeat of Mr. Voyles’ opponent” so supported Voyles.
In her complaint, Gordon wrote, “The disclaimer clearly says, ‘Proudly paid for by Paul Babeu for Sheriff.’”
“Because this is something of value provided by Babeu’s committee, made for the purpose of influencing the county attorney’s race, it constitutes a contribution by the Babeu committee to Voyles’ committee,” Gordon said.
“That robocall does not have my name on it,” Voyles said. “I did not request it. I did not receive it.”
Hermanson said the purpose of the call was to inform voters about Walsh and released as a follow-up to a press conference Babeu held prior to the call.
Voyles and Babeu have been running in tandem as the “Law and Order” team on a platform emphasizing aggressive capture and prosecution of criminals.
“We are running a joint campaign, but anything that’s been spent, signs, anything with Voyles’ campaign, has been equally split,” Hermanson said.
The letter alleged additional unspecified violations of the law.
Pointing out the two candidates are “working hand in hand” to defeat Walsh, Gordon said, “We reasonably believe that the Babeu committee has provided other services or items of value to the Voyles’ committee, which would also need to be counted against the $430 limit.”
Gordon told InMaricopa.com the “other services or items of value” referenced in the complaint “could be any manner of things.”
“We’re focusing on the robocalls,” Gordon said.
Gordon said she regularly reviews campaign finance reports and whether she files a complaint “depends on how blatant (the violations) are.”
The complaint was forwarded to the Gila County Attorney’s office for review. The Pinal County Attorney’s Office cannot investigate the complaint because of a conflict of interest created by incumbent Walsh’s candidacy.
“We’re responding as fast as we can so that we have the documents and all the facts for it,” Hermanson said, adding the campaign hopes to have a formal response to the Pinal County Elections department Thursday.Pinal County Elections Director Steve Kizer said once a complaint is received he has 45 days to act on it.
First, he contacts the candidates or committees involved for a response.
If there is “actual evidence a violation has occurred,” Kizer said he consults with the attorney’s office for further advice.
If necessary, he will submit a reasonable-cause filing, at which point it is up to the attorney’s office to investigate and prosecute the complaint.
The maximum punishment that can be levied against Voyles’ and Babeu’s campaign committees in this case is a fine up to three times the amount in question, Kizer said.
Kizer said election finance complaints are not “uncommon” overall, but they are happening more frequently in Pinal County.
“In bigger counties it’s very common,” Kizer said. “In our county it’s becoming more and more common.”
Kizer said the increase in campaign finance violations is a reflection of the county’s political growth.
“The county’s getting bigger, the players are bigger and the stakes are higher,” Kizer said.