Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, September 15, 2014

What ever happened with Catherine Miranda's campaign finance complaint?

On the day before Arizona's primary election, Frances Mendoza filed a complaint against the now lobbyist-owned Senator-elect Catherine Miranda (D-APS/Cathi Herrod). State elections director Christina Estes-Werther sent notice of the complaint to Miranda, Dark Money operator Mario Diaz and a person known to be responsible for federally registered Cactus PAC. Estes-Werther gave each a deadline of September 9 to respond to the complaint.

Cactus PAC, apparently chaired by retiring Congressman Ed Pastor donated $1,000 to Miranda. It responded with a mea culpa, acknowledging that it had not registered with Arizona. It pleaded for mercy claiming it did not know that it was supposed to be registered with the state. On September 9, it filed its registration with the AZ SOS. But still has not filed any reports regarding its expenditure on an Arizona race or on any donors. Because the bottom line is disclosure of who is trying to influence voters, the thus far UNDISCLOSED report is what, to me, seems most important.

And since that has not been filed, I have to figure Cactus PAC should be penalized for that non-disclosure. If I am wrong, I'm confident we will find out when Estes-Werther makes a determination. She advised me that it could still be a couple of weeks before that takes place.

Next up, we have Dark Money operator (and current candidate for an at-large seat on the Maricopa County Community College District board) Mario Diaz. He personally responded with what appears to be a lawyer-written statement claiming he had no contact and did not coordinate with Miranda. Given the scenario where Miranda had people in a coordinated campaign office with Mary Rose Wilcox and at least one other candidate, it seems likely that there was indeed, at minimum, indirect communication between Diaz or someone in his organization (if there are any others besides him) and the Miranda campaign.

I hope that Estes-Werther successfully parses all of that extraneous language and gets to the essence of whether Diaz ever had any contact with Miranda or anyone who did directly work with Miranda's campaign. The appearance of coordination between Diaz and Miranda's campaign exists even though he swears upon an oath that he's like Sgt. Schultz from the old Hogan's Heroes sitcom.

Of course, the setting of Hogan's Heroes, a World War II German prisoner of war camp, is no laughing matter and neither is it that Arizona Public Service and Cathi Herrod have effectively purchased* their very own Democratic state senator. When local news pundits want to pretend Democrats are ineffective or irrelevant, demand they explain why Herrod and the state's largest investor owned electric power utility have, whether they played by the rules or not, put so much effort into locking Miranda up as their very own lawmaker.

The other item related to Diaz is a statement from attorney Kory Langhofer. His four-page letter includes the following:
In addition to being inferred from certain intertwined relationships between the expender and a campaign, coordination also can be predicated on specific conduct. If there is any “arrangement, coordination or direction with respect to the expenditure” between the expender and the candidate, or if the expenditure is “based on information about the candidate’s plans, projects or needs” that was provided by the campaign “with a view toward having the expenditure made,” then the expenditure necessarily is not “independent.” See Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 16-911(A)(2), (4). Similarly, a communication that entailed “cooperation or consultation” between the expender and the campaign, or that was made “in concert with or at the request or suggestion of” the campaign, is considered coordinated. See id. § 16-901(14). As established by Mr. Diaz’s declaration, no individual affiliated with Friends of Arizona ever communicated directly or indirectly with the Miranda Campaign concerning either organization’s plans, projects, needs, activities, or expenditures. Friends of Arizona’s communications in support of Representative Miranda were made wholly independently of the Miranda Campaign and were in no way the product of any communications or arrangements with the latter. See Diaz Decl. ¶¶ 9-10.
In other words, Langhofer acknowledges that even indirect communication between the organization Diaz operates and the Miranda campaign would be unlawful. Being a lawyer, however, Langhofer overstates his case when he says "As established by Mr. Diaz's declaration..."

Actually, Mr. Diaz's declaration only establishes that Mr. Diaz denies there was any coordination. It does NOT establish that no coordination ever took place.

Then, Langhofer addresses the part of the complaint attributed to me.
Mr. Muratore alleges that because Friends of Arizona has not yet applied for and received recognition as a tax-exempt entity, Arizona law requires that it disclose the identities of its donors. This argument, however, is founded in the erroneous supposition that I.R.S. approval of a Form 1024 application is a prerequisite to tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4).
This appears to be an admission by Diaz (through his attorney) that I was correct in the assertion of fact that Diaz had NOT applied for or received recognition as a tax-exempt entity. Langhofer expounds his interpretation of the Internal Revenue Code indicating that it does not matter that Diaz was not really a qualified 501(c) 4 organization.

I can't speak to whether Langhofer's legal interpretation is correct. But it's nice to know that Diaz got caught with his pants down, so to speak.

From where I sit, as pertains to Diaz, there are (at least) two questions remaining unresolved. First, it needs to be established whether or not Diaz and Miranda's campaign did ever coordinate. Second, there needs to be an interpretation from somebody NOT representing Diaz (i.e. the State Elections Director, and then the Attorney General) as to whether Diaz actually can get away with failing to disclose his donors. In the interest of election integrity, the people of Arizona and of LD27 deserve to know who was working to manipulate their votes.

Langhofer concludes by claiming that Diaz's Dark Money operation is not even a political committee and that as such, the complaint is meaningless. He further states that (but does NOT provide any evidence supporting his claim),
Friends of Arizona consistently has been engaged primarily in activities promoting social welfare and Mr. Muratore has furnished no evidence indicating otherwise.
Because this is a civil matter, not criminal, it should be up to Diaz to provide evidence of whatever "social welfare" activities his group has engaged in. Frankly, the language Langhofer used suggests Diaz is hiding more than he is lawfully allowed to hide. It's understandable that he would make the claims he does, at minimum in hopes that this distracts Ms. Estes-Werther and makes her decide to declare without further examination that it's not worth the bother to exercise due diligence to properly conclude the investigation. I have confidence that she will make sound legal decisions and judgments about the disposition of these complaints.

That leaves Catherine Miranda's response as the only one left to examine. There was more than one issue that Miranda had to address. First, it was implausible that she campaigned all summer without spending any money on her campaign. Second, she accepted $1,000 from an organization not registered to make PAC contributions in Arizona legislative races.

Miranda makes several points, in a one-page, one-paragraph letter, barely coherent letter.
  • During my 2014 Senate campaign, I was sole commitment of my campaign. I was out many hours and days campaigning alone due to my campaign manager, organizer and husband passed away.
  • My finance expenditure report has now been submitted as of September 7, 2014 at 9:55 p.m.
  • The additional alleged complaint alleges involvement with an outside group. I have no control of groups that support me or against me. I have not spoken to anybody.
  • Attorney Kory Langhofer made a statement in the yellow sheets August 28, 2014, "Affirmative approval of 501 (c)(4) tax statutes is no longer necessary and stated there was absolutely no coordination between Miranda and the group."
  • The CACTUS-PAC check for $1,000.00 came from Congressman Ed Pastor. If this is not allowed, I will pay him back immediately.
In reverse order, my thoughts on Miranda's response include:

I don't know that the Cactus PAC check, from her perspective, is significant. I want to know if anyone other than Ed Pastor was wanting to influence the vote in LD27. Disclosure of donors is important to me.

It really is immaterial just what Langhofer told the Yellow Sheet about any 501 (c) 4 organization. That part of the complaint was not relevant to anything Miranda was responsible for, other than the allegations of coordination.

The "additional alleged complaint alleges..." Look, Catherine Miranda apparently holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees, has worked in education, including as an administrator and served on school boards. How can anyone who writes like that obtain a Master's degree, work as a school administrator or get elected to office to represent voters? Good grief.

Miranda's campaign finance report was due on August 22. She apparently did not complete it until September 7. One that she filed timely was grossly incomplete.

State lawmakers have consistently claimed that disclosure is the cure all for campaign finance indiscretions by donors and candidates. This situation presents a clear case study on why that claim is complete bullshit. ESPECIALLY if Miranda and Diaz end up without any penalties or other consequences. Should they both not be compelled to disclose email and phone records?

The first point Miranda made in her response letter is more or less indecipherable. Something about woe is me because my husband died. Ben, her husband, passed on November 15, 2013. If she is still grieving to the degree that she cannot fulfill her lawful obligations to her legitimate constituents, maybe she should have just chosen not to run for the Senate.

Here's something I do know about Catherine Miranda. She had campaign workers with whom she DID coordinate something and they lied to voters on the phone about Catherine's positions on women's health sovereignty and self-determination.

If she is not held accountable for her role in campaign irregularities, it will be a significant indication that nobody in the state legislature can be held accountable for any campaign irregularities. That would, in my view, be a tragic blow to the hope that Arizona will ever be a functioning democratic republic.

It would also signal to lawmakers in the immediate future that they can get away with AZSCAM scale corruption with impunity because nobody is willing to dig deep enough to ferret out the truth.


*NOTE: Whether the financial audit trail can be found or not, there is clear evidence that APS has gotten Miranda to support its special interest legislation to the detriment of Arizona citizens. And that Cathi Herrod has boasted of Miranda effectively advocating legislation Herrod's group has pushed.

No comments:

Post a Comment