Pheonix New Times: Experts: No, Arpaio Can't Use Campaign Donations to Pay Off Legal Bills


As soon as Joe Arpaio launched his campaign for Senate, skeptics immediately deemed it a "cash grab" intended to help the former sheriff pay off his legal bills. It's no secret that Arpaio has been begging for donations ever since he got kicked out of office. In August, immediately after receiving a presidential pardon, he (or someone on his team) sent an email to supporters claiming that he still had "tens of thousands" in legal bills. A few months later, another fundraising email upped that total to "hundreds of thousands in legal defense debt."


Could Arpaio use campaign contributions to get rid of some of that debt? "The answer is probably not," Lawrence Noble, senior director for the Campaign Legal Center, confirmed. The Federal Election Commission bans candidates from spending campaign funds for their own personal use, Noble explains. Whether legal expenses are considered to be a personal use is determined on a case-by-case basis. In the past, the FEC has allowed campaign money to be spent on legal bills only in cases where, in the commission's words, "such expenses would not have occurred had the individual not been a candidate or officeholder."