Legislative District 11 State Rep. candidate David Joseph has admitted fault to some of the allegations made by Pinal County Republican Committee Chairman Stephen Kohut that he misspent primary election fund dollars, though calling it an “honest mistake.”
The complaint, filed by Kohut on Oct. 2, accused Joseph of “using his primary (election) funding to wage a General Election campaign, an action prohibited by law and a breach of trust with the taxpayer.”
According to Kohut, Joseph sent a campaign mailer to Republic residences during the primary election period, an action prohibited by the Clean Elections Committee (CEC).
Among the recipients of the mailer were Joseph’s Republican opponent, Sen. Steve Smith and Smith’s wife.
“They are both registered Republicans who would not be able to vote for Mr. Joseph in the primary,” reads Kohut’s complaint. “Mr. Joseph’s attempt to persuade Republican voters is, as I understand it, prohibited by Clean Election rules and a breach of trust with the people of Arizona.”
The complaint also claims Joseph spent primary fund money to purchase election signs and other material as advertising for the General Election.
The letter from Kohut, which was forwarded to the CEC, addresses Joseph directly.
“If you are willing to scam the taxpayer as a publicly funded candidate, what does that say about what you would do as an elected official?”
Also running for a seat for District 11 House, Republican Adam Kwasman weighed in on the matter.
“The allegation that he misused funds toward the election, if true, is very disappointing,” said Kwasman. “He’s already acting like a career politician. He purchased items (signs) on the last day of the primary election, and frankly, it just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Smith was not quite as bold in his statements, saying only that he would leave it to the CEC to sort out.
The committee has already begun that process. According to CEC Public Information Officer Daniel Ruiz II, soon after receiving the complaint from Kohut, the committee forwarded it to Joseph.
Joseph was given five days to respond, which he did.
The letter from Joseph and his counsel to the CEC first addresses the mailer sent out, acknowledging that 27 percent of the recipients were indeed registered Republicans.
“Unfortunately, the mail universe that the candidate reviewed did not have party affiliation on it,” reads the letter. “Although the Committee did not intentionally violate the Commission’s rules, it acknowledges that sending mail supporting a Democratic candidate to Republican voters with primary funds is a violation.”
Joseph paid $2,590.93 to have Wholesale Lithography create the post cards that were the subject of the complaint, and an additional $3,925.71 for mailing them out, for a total expense of $6,516.54. Because 27 percent of the mailers sent out went to Republicans, Joseph is offering to pay 27 percent of the total expenses, or $1,760, back to the Clean Election fund.
“The Committee’s offer provides a complete remedy,” reads the letter. “The Committee’s returning $1,760 to the Clean Election fund effectively pays for those mailers with General Election funds. In fact, the Committee is penalized for its mistake because the mail was not effective general election advocacy.”
The letter moves on to address the purchase of election signs. According to Joseph, though some signs were purchased toward the end of the primary election, they were not intended to be used as advertising for the General Election.
“This expenditure was entirely directed at the primary, but because of delays in receiving the signs from the vendor, many of the signs were not installed before the primary,” reads Joseph’s letter.
Lastly, Joseph refutes the accusation that other printed materials (cards) from the primary were used during the General Election.
“The complainant bases this allegation on nothing more than an overestimation of the number of pieces (cards) that could be produced for the invoiced price,” it reads “In fact, the Committee received 20,000 pieces for the primary election for the indicated price. The Committee promptly distributed the card to volunteers and organizations supporting the Committee in the primary. This expenditure was entirely directed at the primary, and the Commission should dismiss this allegation.”
In a phone interview, Joseph admitted fault for those complaints in which he felt were legitimate.
“I believe in being accountable,” he said. “It’s my campaign, and I should and will be accountable for it, and discuss this further with the Clean Elections Committee. I made a mistake, and I will reimburse the committee for what was incorrectly spent. I like to play by the rules.”
Ruiz said depending on the committee’s decision, different penalties could apply.
“In the past, the committee has made the candidate pay back the Primary Election expenses that were incorrectly used with General Election money,” he said.
The next scheduled meeting for the Clean Elections Committee takes place in November after the General Election.