Rep. Ben Arredondo (Cronkite News Service photo)
Rep. Ben Arredondo spent $15,000 of his legislative campaign money on a criminal defense attorney about six weeks before a grand jury indicted him on accusations he took bribes, according to recently filed finance reports.
Attorney services are legitimate expenses, but most politicians who dip into their campaign funds to pay lawyers have election law or political-related issues, said Matt Roberts, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office.
Roberts said Clean Elections candidates have restrictions on what they can spend money on, but candidates who don’t take public money for their campaigns don’t. Arredondo did not participate in the Clean Elections system in his 2010 campaign.
“I’m not sure this would be any different than anything else,” Roberts said.
Arredondo, a Tempe Democrat who is not running for re-election, entered a single $15,000 expense on April 3 for “professional services” and “attorney fees” for Tyrone Mitchell, a lawyer who lists his area of practice as “criminal defense, immigration law, and personal injury” on the State Bar of Arizona directory.
Arredondo was indicted May 16. The indictment states that FBI agents interviewed him on Jan. 17.
Mitchell, who is not currently representing Arredondo in the criminal matter in federal court, did not return a call seeking comment.
When reached for comment today, Arredondo said to call a number listed for his Tempe City Council political committee, Citizens for Arredondo, and then he hung up. Calls to that number went unreturned.
Arredondo raised no money in the period from Jan. 1 to May 31. He began the reporting period with $21,707 and finished with $4,809 cash on hand. His other expenses included $459 in office supplies and a total of $65 to Qwest.
He also donated $750 to Chicanos Por la Causa, $50 to Planned Parenthood and $450 to Arizona Fire Chiefs Association 100 Club.
Arredondo is charged with bribery, extortion, mail fraud and false statements. The indictment alleges he accepted bribes in the form sporting event tickets and the purchase of tables at charity events in exchange for brokering a land deal.
The FBI set up a fake company, Longford Solutions, and undercover agents posed as representatives of the business trying to cut a land deal with Tempe.
Arredondo’s campaign finance reports from his time as a Tempe city councilman reveal that one of the charity events undercover agents paid for was a dinner where his family was honored for its contribution to education in Tempe.