The elbows are flying in the final weeks of the Democratic race for secretary of state.
On Wednesday, two complaints were filed with the IRS and the Federal Elections Commission over the activities of Our Voice Our Vote, a nonprofit organization run by candidate Reginald Bolding.
And Bolding’s rival, Adrian Fontes, paid off a property tax debt that had accumulated over the past decade.
The two-man race has taken a sharp negative turn as the Aug. 2 primary approaches. Bolding has accused Fontes of ginning up the complaints about him and the nonprofits he runs; Fontes pointed back to Bolding and his allies as the source of the delinquent property tax charge, but thanked him for bringing the matter to his attention.
Complaints about Bolding to IRS, FEC
The complaints filed with federal officials stem from reports that Bolding’s organization, Our Voice Our Vote, may have violated its nonprofit status by supporting Bolding’s candidacy for secretary of state.
“Our Voice Our Vote has made political expenditures benefitting their executive director’s own political campaign and may have directed the staff to collect signatures on behalf of the campaign,” Tempe resident David Lucier wrote in his complaint.
Reginald Bolding smiles before facing Adrian Fontes, left, in a debate as they compete for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Phoenix.
As a social welfare nonprofit, or a 501(c)(4) organization, Our Voice Our Vote can make political contributions, but cannot coordinate with the candidate or cause that benefits from the spending.
The complaints allege that such coordination has happened, noting that Bolding and his wife are co-executive directors of the organization that they founded in 2017.
As of Wednesday, the Our Voice Our Vote political action committee has spent nearly $639,000 to support Bolding’s candidacy, according to records filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
The complaints to federal agencies also note that Our Voice Our Vote, as well as its sister organization, the Arizona Coalition for Change, have failed to file tax returns, as required by law.
The Arizona Republic reported this week that the organizations lost their tax-exempt status in 2020 for failing to file tax documents for three straight years. The nonprofits’ tax-exempt status was reinstated in the last year.
For his part, Bolding has provided a document showing he and Our Voice Our Vote created a firewall to separate Bolding from the organization’s election activities. The agreement was dated the same day Bolding declared his candidacy in June 2021 and updated exactly a year later.
Daniel Arellano, an attorney for Our Voice Our Vote, had no comment on the latest complaints.
The federal complaints come two days after Phoenix resident Scott Meyer filed a complaint with the Arizona secretary of state, alleging campaign finance violations. That complaint is under review.
Adrian Fontes prepares before a debate with Reginald Bolding as they compete for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Phoenix.
Fontes’ unpaid tax bill from Rio Rico
On Wednesday, Fontes said he had no idea that he had overdue taxes on a property in Santa Cruz County. County treasurer records show property taxes were not paid on an empty lot since 2011, and amount to $3,757.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Fontes said when The Republic notified him of the bill. “I’m going to have to look at where they’re sending the notices to.”
Twenty minutes later, he said he had paid the bill in full. The billing notices were sent to an address in Lake Havasu City, he said. Fontes said he doesn’t know why that was listed as the address, but he speculated it might be tied to the company that developed the Rio Rico subdivision.
The county confirmed the bills were sent to a post office box in Lake Havasu City, and that the total bill had been paid.
Fontes said he had bought the lot in Rio Rico adjacent to his father’s home so his father could have unobstructed views to the east.
He said he had not yet corrected the mailing address for future tax bills, saying his priority was to pay the overdue amount in full.
He thanked Bolding for airing the information about his overdue tax bill.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.
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