On Friday, October 24, the City of Glendale Clerk’s office received answers to formal complaints regarding campaign finance reporting violations, having granted the committees an extra four days to formulate their answers.
The lawyer representing political committees funded exclusively by the Gila River Indian Community provided answers to each complaint, admitting errors for portions of each complaint.
Where Did I Leave That Five Grand?
Reports filed by “No More Bad Deals for Glendale” (NMBD) and their sponsoring organization “Neighbors for a Better Glendale” (NFBG) had a five thousand dollar discrepancy.
NFBG reported they sent $30k over to NMBD, yet NMBD reported they received $35k.
The lawyer says “whoops” (click here) it was the fault of NFBG (the distributor of the Gila River contributions), a corrected report will be filed.
Ironically, the same person (Jill Ryan) is responsible for the reporting of both committees and is also likely responsible for writing the checks from one of her committees to another one of her committees.
Political committees have a responsibility to provide campaign finance reports for each reporting period in which they exist.
Two of the committees, “Recall Councilman Gary Sherwood” (RCGS) and NMBD neglected to file pre-primary election reports.
In her answer related to RCGS (click here), the attorney admits wrongdoing and states the committee filed the required “no activity” report. The City Clerk is obligated to collect the $10 per day fine before the report can be accepted. Since the report was due August 22, the fine should have been a bit north of $300.
Ironically, the same attorney states in her answer for NMBD (click here) that the same report was not required. Ms. Windtberg (the lawyer) argues the short length of time the committee was in existence obviates the need for filing the report. She goes on to shift the blame to the City Clerk by noting an officer of the City never notified the committee that such a report was due, yet she never made that argument for the RCGS that was in a similar condition.
Finally, though, she relents and states something like (you can almost hear the eye-rolling) “If you INSIST, even though it serves no purpose, the committee will file the report.” Hopefully the City does insist and also collects the requisite fine.
Misleading Statements of Organization
The justification arguments Ms. Windtberg uses to explain away the boneheaded mistakes made by her clients are weak and based completely on semantics that are nearly psychedelic.
The process for committees pushing referendums is to register the committee, then request a serial number for their referendum. Once the referendum serial number is assigned by the City Clerk, the committee must then change their name to indicate they are either in support of or in opposition to the referendum AND check a box on their organization papers indicating the same thing.
Both NMBD and “Respect The Promise” (RTP) checked the box indicating they were in opposition to their own referendum and renamed their committees to indicate the same thing. This is clearly incorrect, one needs only look at the correct name of the “Protect Glendale Taxpayers” committee funded by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club for an example.
It should be noted the “Protect Your Right To Vote Committee” successfully used the same naming convention in their bid to have the controversial HB-2305 added to the ballot (repealed before it went to ballot), so the reverse language thing is not new.
Ms. Windtberg has access to her education and clerks and all sorts of barrister tools. She managed to dig up some Arizona case law allowing the backwards naming convention for committee names. Click here for her explanation in the case of RTP.
She boils it down to an explanation that, despite the name and selected checkbox indicating the committees are in opposition to the referendum they were gathering signatures to support, they REALLY meant that they were in opposition to an action of the Glendale City Council.
Let’s pretend we’re not lawyers and are, instead, normal human beings looking at this committee name:
“Respect The Promise in Opposition to R-14-02 – Neighbors for a Better Glendale”
That normal human being, let’s say one being asked to sign a petition by a representative of the above named committee, would then look up the referendum in question, R-14-02.
Ask yourself the question:
Would that normal human being, the one campaign reporting laws are designed to protect from misleading scalawags, be likely to think the committee was supporting or opposing the measures laid out in the referendum R-14-02?
Committee ID Numbers and Names Incorrect
Ms. Windtberg says, yup, they’re wrong, we’ll fix them for all three of her committees that have problems following simple directions. She is dismissive in her answers, with a “no harm, no foul” attitude, and indicates it’s no big deal.
She says “…does not precisely (emphasis mine) match the name of the Committee. Again, this clerical error should not have resulted in any confusion to the public…”
Identifying something as a “clerical error” immediately dismisses culpability for political committees, apparently? Or, is the word used to remove some of the “stank” from a mistake, with most of those errors being ones that would potentially mislead the public? Isn’t EVERYTHING on political committee filings and campaign finance reports “clerical” by nature?
I’ll tell my son bound for an SAT test that “I meant something else” and “It’s not important” are legitimate answers and send him to Ms. Windtberg if it doesn’t work out for him.
We’ll review the answers from the lawyer about the missing $10k finance reports another time. That’s where the big fines would come into play.