With nine months remaining until Chandler City Council elections, Councilman Martin Sepulveda has racked up almost $20,000 in donations from mostly out-of-town contributors whose occupations and employers are not listed in campaign finance records.
State law requires these documents to identify a donor’s employer and occupation in addition to their name, address and how much money they gave to the campaign.
“People have a right to know who is giving money and what these people do,” said Joe Kanefield, elections services director for the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
If a candidate doesn’t provide the required employment information of their donors, Kanefield said they must show in writing that they’ve made every effort to do so, or they could face stiff fines from the state.
Since August, Sepulveda has raised $19,880 from 63 contributors and two political action committees, according to campaign finance records filed this week with the Chandler City Clerk’s Office. Employment and occupation information for 36 of these donors was not listed.
“A letter was sent to all the donors on Jan. 3 requesting this information and what we have received so far has been included. The campaign will be amending the report as more information comes available,” said his campaign adviser, Chase Barrett. Sepulveda, who was recently called to active military duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve, was unavailable for comment.
Typically, most candidates in local races don’t start raising money in earnest until the beginning of the year. But Barrett said Sepulveda’s military duty forced him to change his plans because he could be gone for the majority of the year.
Sepulveda took a leave of absence from the council in late January because of his military obligation and was replaced with Kevin Hartke, a minister and former member of the Chandler Human Relations Commission.
Sepulveda received his orders in November. Most of his contributions were collected between October and December, according to the records. Among his most notable donors is former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, who in October donated $390, the maximum allowed under state campaign finance laws.
Symington’s business, the Symington Group, is handling public relations for Covance, a controversial animal-testing company building a multimillion-dollar facility in the city.
The financial records also show Sepulveda is relying heavily on contributors outside Chandler to fund his campaign.
He collected five contributions from donors listing a Chandler address for a total of $1,040. Most of the 59 remaining donors list a Phoenix or Scottsdale address.
Barrett said that will change the closer it gets to the election, saying most of the money was collected from close friends.
Sepulveda’s fundraising efforts put him far ahead of the other council candidates seeking re-election, who are now just starting to ramp up their campaigns.
Of the 16 financial disclosure documents filed with the city, only Sepulveda had raised any money for the coming elections.
Other council members up for re-election include Matt Orlando, Bob Caccamo and Mayor Boyd Dunn.
Orlando said he’s gearing up to raise a lot of cash with a series fundraisers scheduled in the next couple of months. Four years ago, he spent nearly $30,000 on his race.
This year, he’s planning to raise nearly double that in order to stand out as the council race competes for voters’ attention during a presidential election.
Chandler voters decided in 2006 to move their elections from February to the fall.
The city will hold primary elections in September and a general election in November.
“It’s a lot different now that we’re holding elections in the fall,” he said. “I think there will be ballot fatigue by the time voters get to our names.”