Before allegedly setting up scam PACs, William Tierney was active in Arizona GOP politics
Before this week, William James Tierney II was a mostly forgotten peripheral figure in Arizona politics, a relic from the 1990s who had failed to make a mark among the state’s Republican operatives.
That changed Thursday when he and his brother Robert Henry Tierney were arrested on federal charges of operating fraudulent political action committees that bilked unsuspecting seniors and others nationwide out of millions of dollars.
Even before the felony case, William Tierney had been involved years ago in what some people saw as underhanded politics and he had been embroiled in a fight over millions of dollars in a family fortune from a gardening business.
This week's criminal case, filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, jarred some who worked with Tierney in Arizona and left others surprised by the allegations of fundraising fraud in politics.
“My heart has just fallen,” former Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock said when learning of the allegations. “You have not made my day.”
The brothers are charged with operating nine PACs that took in millions from small-dollar donors, usually in the name of helping conservative causes. Authorities allege the Tierneys siphoned off most of the money through a network of shell companies that masked they have described as "scam PACs."
Federal authorities say William, 46, and Robert, 40, defrauded donors out of $23 million. Prosecutors allege the scam was a bonanza for the brothers, who pocketed at least $3.5 million but spent less than 1 percent toward political contributions.
The brothers conned donors through a web of pass-through entities and aliases to hide the racket, prosecutors say. They deliberately avoided news coverage.
A local attorney referred questions to the brothers' attorneys on the East Coast.
Republicans contacted by The Arizona Republic vaguely recalled William Tierney and his past involvement in local GOP politics during the 1990s, describing him as a junior-level consultant who was passionate about conservative social causes. No one seemed to know much about his younger brother.
Many had not seen or heard from William for years.
“I thought he dropped off the planet," former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., said.
Dan Godzich, a Republican involved in candidate campaigns and initiatives, said people had “shied away from using” William partly “because they didn’t think he was very reputable.”
Dedication to politics
Others recalled his dedication to politics and grassroots campaigns.
Brock, who served in the Arizona Legislature and on the Board of Supervisors, said William advised him to start attending monthly legislative district meetings if he wanted a future in politics. William connected him with local politicians and business leaders after he moved to Arizona and later helped get him elected to public office.
Brock said he ran into William a few years ago and told him he was working in “call centers.”
The two men have lost touch, Brock said.
“Bill was very instrumental in helping some of us Republicans get elected, and you know, he was very straight up with me and my association with him and his brother,” Brock said. “I’m so sorry to hear that an old associate has become involved in questionable activities.”
Tom Rawles, an East Valley Republican, wasn’t taken by William. The former county supervisor supported Brock's rival, Bob Edens, during the 1996 race.
“I just never really liked him (William) personally and I never had much good to say about him," Rawles said. "But I can’t think of any particular reason why."
After thinking a bit about it, Rawles said he was turned off by William's "self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude."
In 1996, Brock and Tierney were sued over an eleventh-hour mailer sent in a race for the Maricopa County Supervisor seat also then sought by Edens.
Tierney was Brock’s campaign chairman.
Edens sued them for a mailer that said, among other things, that he resigned from office after receiving questionable bank loans and that “Bob Edens has two answers to Maricopa County’s problems … Tax and Spend.”
Edens received $20,000 to settle the case in 1999.
John Huppenthal, a onetime Chandler city councilman, state legislator and state public schools superintendent, gushed over William’s political and business acumen. He thought he would have a promising future.
Huppenthal first met William when he was a teenager. Back then, Huppenthal called residents every Saturday to talk about issues on their minds, from potholes to overgrown grass.
William picked up the phone one day and turned the tables on Huppenthal, asking him questions about politics and elections. Huppenthal remembered thinking the guy on the other side of the phone was in his mid-thirties.
“But he was 16,” he said. “He was somebody who was hugely, hugely knowledgeable beyond his years. He was very politically knowledgeable.”
Huppenthal recalled William volunteering hundreds of hours for conservative campaigns, erecting signs and performing other grunt work.
“He was a hyperactive volunteer,” Huppenthal said. “It was always hard work and being out late at night putting up signs. There was nothing fun about it, but you could rely on him to do it.”
Huppenthal said he had dinner with William after he left the Education Department after the 2014 election, and the two exchanged emails a couple of times.
“I feel terrible for him.”
Hints of money woes
Looking back, there may have been signs that Tierney had money problems.
In 2008, the Tierneys sued their former lawyer and his law firm, saying he botched their efforts to control their grandmother’s wealthy estate.
The Tierneys’ grandparents helped build a chain of retail garden centers that made the family wealthy, court records show. One of their two daughters, however, stole $5 million from the business in the early 1990s, nearly bankrupting the family and the company, the lawsuit claimed.
After that, the family no longer trusted that daughter and intended to provide for her mental health needs, but never wanted her to control the family estate, the case claimed.
Instead, William Tierney was in control of the family’s money for years, but later found that his aunt had taken control of the estate a year before his grandmother’s 2002 death.
The Tierneys wanted to challenge that estate change, but agreed not to on their lawyer's advice. The family later learned their lawyer had personal problems and wanted the lawyer and his firm held liable for their counsel.
That effort failed in 2010 and apparently left the Tierneys shut out of controlling the family estate, whose value they no longer knew or managed.
Raking in small-money gifts
By 2014, Tierney and his brother were setting up PACs that were notably vague in name and, records show, surprisingly ineffective at steering money to the kinds of candidates and causes they ostensibly sought to support.
The National Campaign PAC, was formed in May 2014 to "save unborn babies from abortion" by a person identified as Ann Mattson with a Delaware address.
That person mailed the paperwork to create the organization from Phoenix, according to FEC records, and submitted an email contact to an accounting firm that doesn’t appear to exist.
Like all the PACs authorities tied to the Tierneys, the National Campaign’s records show it overwhelmingly took in its money in small amounts and gave little to actual campaigns or politically active organizations.
In the 2016 cycle, for example, it took in $7.1 million, with 98 percent of that from donors who gave less than $200 each. Overall, the committee spent $1.5 million on phone banks to oppose Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The PAC also divided $10,000 among 40 Republican candidates.
None of those who gave $200 or more, a threshold that requires public disclosure in FEC filings, were from Arizona. None of the political candidates they gave to were from Arizona, either.
The Voter Education PAC was formed in March 2015, again by Ann Mattson, with a different Delaware phone number. That organization listed a menu of conservative objectives as goals.
It wanted to "elect conservative Republicans and championing individual liberty, smaller government, traditional values, economic opportunity, a strong national defense and energy independence."
Similar to the National Campaign, Voter Education also had no publicly identified donors from Arizona or candidates it supported in Arizona.
Article From:- https://www.azcentral.com