GOP candidate for Giffords seat fires treasurer over deficient reports

An Arizona lawmaker running in a special election to replace former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) has fired his campaign treasurer for turning in finance reports that were deficient and inaccurate.

State Sen. Frank Antenori’s (R) campaign said it will replace its former treasurer, Jeffrey Hill, and is working with the Federal Election Commission to get in compliance “as soon as humanly possible.”

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It’s the second staff shake-up in three months for Antenori, the only Republican in the race with any electoral experience, but whose inability to raise a significant amount of cash and stumbles over campaign organization have cast serious doubts about his viability.

Antenori’s campaign missed the April 5 deadline to file a report detailing the campaign’s finances leading up to the primary, which is set for next Tuesday. When he eventually filed four days later, FEC records show, he filed twice; one set of records appeared to have used the wrong form. Then a third, amended version was filed a day later.

All three versions showed different totals for contributions, expenses and cash on hand.

“Our previous treasurer just completely burned us,” said Antenori spokesman Brett Mecum.

A further review of the documents by The Hill showed that Antenori reported no expenditures for rent for his campaign headquarters. County property records show that the shopping center housing his Tucson, Ariz., headquarters is managed by Paul Ash Management Company, but there are no payments to the company. There are also no in-kind contributions for rent, which the campaign would have to report if it were being given free use of office space.

Antenori’s pre-primary filing also appeared to show his campaign in violation of federal campaign law that says that a candidate who is “testing the waters” with an exploratory committee cannot raise or spend more than $5,000. Once they do, they legally become a candidate and are subject to different reporting requirements.

Antenori’s filings show he started off the year with about $9,000 in his campaign account. He didn’t convert his exploratory committee to a full committee until early February.

“There are other things that are not in our report that need to be in our report, and I’m aware of those,” said Mecum. “We're working to resolve them with the FEC and get them amended properly.”

In February, control of Antenori’s campaign finances changed hands for the first time when his former treasurer and campaign manager, Kenneth Moyes, stepped down. Moyes told The Hill that major surgery had forced him to give up his post with the campaign.

But after Moyes was replaced and Hill took over as treasurer, nobody informed the FEC.

Moyes started getting inquiries from the government about the campaign’s finances, so he sent the FEC his own letter in March informing them he was off the hook.

“The purpose of this letter is to notify you that I can have no responsibility or control for committee financial activity from Feb. 9 forward. I suggest you contact the campaign” to request updated information, Moyes wrote.

Hill, an accountant and former Arizona state senator, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

It’s difficult to assess what shape Antenori’s finances are in until accurate reports are filed. But his most recently filed version showed a negative balance of almost $3,000, having raised about $55,000 for his campaign in total.

An Army veteran who served in Iraq during the Gulf War and later in Afghanistan, Antenori is the only one of the four Republicans vying for Giffords’s seat that has held elected office.

A poll by Citizens United Political Victory Fund poll released in February showed Antenori running second in the GOP primary behind Jesse Kelly, a Tea Party-backed candidate who came within 2 points of unseating Giffords in 2010.

Former Giffords aide Ron Barber, who was shot twice during the January 2011 shooting spree that led to Giffords’s retirement, is the only Democrat running in the special election to carry out the rest of Giffords’s term. A regular election will be held in the fall to pick a candidate for the full term that starts in 2013.

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