City Hall Brawl: Sign-Gate 2011 Appears Resolved

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Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers sent out a press release yesterday demanding an investigation into a weird transaction on the campaign-finance reports of Republican Jennifer Rawson, who hopes to unseat Democratic Ward 2 Councilman Paul Cunningham.

Rawson reported receiving a total of $2,650 from six contributors on Aug. 3—money that was also reported as an expenditure to those same people on the same day.

“This would appear to be an attempt to increase her campaign coffers with fake contributions and shady accounting,” Rogers said in the release. “Whether she is knowingly misappropriating taxpayer money or simply negligent, Rawson has demonstrated that she can’t be trusted with taxpayer dollars.”

Rawson tells The Ranger there’s a simpler explanation. Those six contributors banded together to directly purchase her campaign signs out of their own pocket—so she reported the money as a contribution, but also reported it as going back to them rather than to the company that made the signs.

“It is a reporting error,” Rawson says. “There has been no collusion or evil of any kind. … I guess I've got Mr. Rogers running scared.”

Suzanne Mesich of the Tucson City Clerk’s Office confirms that Rawson sorted out the mishandled accounting earlier this week. Rawson will have to file an amended report listing the transaction under an in-kind contribution rather than a cash contribution.

The downside for Rawson: The contributions won’t be doubled under the city’s matching-fund program, says Mesich—although they would have been eligible if she had just accepted them as regular campaign contributions.

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