Two men tied to the Northern Arizona Republican Party tried to make a cash donation to Tom O’Halleran’s re-election campaign with fake names and false ties to the communist party, seemingly in the hopes of bringing negative attention to the Arizona congressman.
The men, who are believed to be GOP staffers, went to the O’Halleran for Congress campaign office in Flagstaff on Thursday, and one of the men used the name Jose N. Rosales to donate $39.68 to the campaign. The second man identified himself as Ahmahd Sadia.
Ryan Mulcahy, campaign manager for O’Halleran for Congress, said that while they were in the process of donating, they specified to a campaign worker that they were members of a communist student group at Northern Arizona University.
As is the case with anyone making campaign contributions, the man who said he was Rosales was asked to write down his names and email addresses. Mulcahy said the men insisted on receiving a receipt from the donation, and when they were told the receipt could only be sent via email, they crossed out the NAU email address they had originally written and replaced it with another NAU email address.
While the original email address does not appear to be real, the address it was replaced with is, and it’s registered to a NAU student named Oscar Cisco.
Mulcahy said the pair’s claim that they were communists raised suspicions, and one of the O’Halleran campaign workers recognized Cisco from social media posts by the Northern Arizona Republican Party and the campaign to elect Wendy Rogers.
O’Halleran campaign finance director Lindsay Coleman then drove to the offices of the Northern Arizona Republican Party office to return the donation.
Once there, she relayed the story to a staff member sitting behind the front desk and saw the man who said his name was Rosales walk out of a door toward her. When she pointed him out as one of the two men who made the donation, the man behind the desk said his name was Oscar. The man then walked back through the door to another room.
In a video of the exchange on YouTube titled “Returning Illegal Campaign Contributions Made by AZ GOP Staff” posted by Tom O’Halleran for Congress, Coleman is seen calling Cisco to come take his money, and Cisco is seen opening the door, walking toward her and taking his money back.
A spokesperson for the Arizona Republican Party located in Phoenix did not confirm the man was Cisco but said the involved employee has been terminated.
Providing false information to the Federal Communications Commission on a campaign donation is against the law, and Mulcahy said although the campaign has not reported the violation to the police, it is still an option.
The news reached O’Halleran quickly, and he is linking Rogers to the event.
"I am amazed at the lengths my opponent and her supporters will go to undermine the credibility of our election this fall," O'Halleran said in a statement. "This stunt is just one more shameful chapter in Wendy Rogers' failed attempts to win a political office. She has skipped debates, aired blatant lies in her advertising, and now her team is committing fraud in some bizarre, misguided effort to embarrass my campaign. Team O'Halleran demands answers about what Wendy Rogers knew and an apology for this deception."
But Rogers denies any connection.
In a response to O’Halleran’s tweeting of the YouTube video, Rogers wrote on Twitter that no one with her campaign was involved in what she called a “juvenile stunt.”
“We are focused on defeating Tom O’Halleran and the Democrats this November and don’t have time for juvenile pranks,” the tweet read. “We are more concerned about exposing Tom O’Halleran’s open border liberal record.”
NAU spokesperson Kim Ott confirmed that there is an NAU student named Oscar Cisco who is a senior political science major and international studies minor, but couldn’t confirm if he belonged to any student clubs.
On their Twitter account, the Northern Arizona University College Republicans released a statement with information that neither Cisco nor the other man is a part of their group.
“We at the NAU College Republicans thoroughly disagree [with] and condemn the actions of these two men,” reads the release. “They are neither members nor have either of them ever been members of the NAU College Republicans.”