The committee that led the fight to halt future light rail construction in Phoenix missed a deadline to respond to a complaint alleging that it falsely reported the source of $40,000 in contributions.
The Phoenix city clerk’s office informed Building a Better Phoenix on Sept. 18 that it had one week to respond to a campaign finance complaint. A city spokeswoman confirmed that the committee did not submit a response by the deadline, which passed at the end of Wednesday.
A nonprofit group called the Urban Phoenix Project, which focuses on transit issues in downtown Phoenix and supports light rail expansion, filed a complaint alleging that Building a Better Phoenix inaccurately reported that it received $40,000 from Scot Mussi, head of the conservative advocacy group Arizona Free Enterprise Club.
Building a Better Phoenix, a campaign committee that supported Proposition 105, a ballot measure that sought to halt all light rail expansion in Phoenix, reported that Mussi contributed $5,000 in March, $10,000 in July and $25,000 in August. Mussi told the Arizona Mirror in late August that the money was actually from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and its political action committee, Freedom Club PAC.
Urban Phoenix Project cited the Mirror’s reporting in its complaint.
But in the month since Mussi publicly said he wasn’t the source of the money, Building a Better Phoenix hasn’t amended its campaign finance reports to show that Arizona Free Enterprise Club and Freedom Club PAC contributed the money.
If the city clerk’s office finds reasonable cause to believe that Building a Better Phoenix violated campaign finance law, it will refer the case to the city attorney’s office for investigation. If the city attorney concludes that the committee broke the law, Building a Better Phoenix will have 20 days to correct its campaign finance reports. The committee won’t be subject to any penalty if it corrects the problem within that period.
Under state campaign finance law, the committee could face fines of up to three times the amount of money in question, which would be $120,000, if the city determines there was a violation and the committee doesn’t rectify it within 20 days.
Building a Better Phoenix’s treasurer, Susan Gudino, did not respond to a request for comment from the Mirror.
Freedom Club PAC reported to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office that it gave $5,000 to Building a Better Phoenix on March 7, the same day the committee reported receiving the same amount from Mussi. Mussi told the Mirror in August that another $25,000 attributed to him was also contributed by the PAC, which won’t submit its next campaign finance report to the secretary of state until October. The other $10,000 came from Arizona Free Enterprise Club, he said, which is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that doesn’t have to report it campaign spending.
Mussi did not respond to questions from the Mirror about whether he’s spoken with Building a Better Phoenix about amending the reports.