By the end of January of this year, the campaign to re-elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio) had raised $8 million, which is an enormous take for an elected official at the county level. But campaign finance disclosure statements show that haul came at an enormous cost. The sheriff's campaign spent more than half of its donations on efforts to raise even more money.
The result is that the sheriff's campaign had just over $3.2 million on hand when the fundraising costs and the consultants' fees were taken into account.
"That a county elected official in Arizona can raise $8 million is pretty breathtaking," said Bill Scheel, who is a partner with Javelina Consulting. Scheel has no ties to the sheriff's campaign. His company represents mostly Democratic-leaning candidates.
Scheel says he sees some red flags in the sheriff's campaign finance disclosure statements.
"The public deserves to know how the dollars are being expended and if you look at those reports, that doesn't seem to be happening," Scheel said.
Arpaio's campaign relies heavily on letters and emails sent to tens of thousands of donors and potential donors, many of them from out of state.
"I read them and I know that he is sincere," said Maria Keiffer, who is a retired teacher and Arpaio supporter. Keiffer has donated a total of $325 to the sheriff's re-election campaign, $25 at a time.
The letters the campaign sends are often criticized for playing fast and loose with facts. Earlier this year, one letter stated the sheriff had decided not to run for re-election unless he raised a lot more money.
"The sky is falling. The world is ending. The federal government is coming to destroy the sheriff and that sort of thing. And they basically scare them into giving money," said Len Sherman, an author who wrote the book "Joe's Law: America's Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs and Everything Else that Threatens America." Sherman also worked as an adviser to the sheriff's office until February of this year.
Digital extra: One on one with Len Sherman
"He's extraordinary in his appeal to the people, but his operation is not extraordinary," said Sherman when describing the re-election campaign, which he says consists of just a couple of advisers.
One of those advisers is Arpaio's campaign manager, Chad Willems. He is the president of The Summit Consulting Group Inc., which is a political consulting company that also handles the sheriff's campaign.
Campaign finance disclosure forms show the campaign gave Summit more than $3.4 million from 2013 to 2015. Willems did not return CBS 5 Investigates' calls for comment, but the disclosure forms show most of the money went toward fundraising and administration. There is not a breakdown of what the fundraising consisted of or how much Summit charged for administration.
The next campaign finance disclosure forms are set to be published in June.
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