The “Truth Squad” was created in the heat of a controversy over the future of an effort by Curis Resources Inc. (an Arizona affiliate of a Canadian company) to begin copper extraction from an underground copper mine in the heart of Florence, the county seat of Pinal County.
Bryan Martyn won’t reveal how much he was paid by ‘Truth Squad’
Martyn has acknowledged that he was paid for running the organization and that some of the funding came from Curis, but he would not specify how much he was paid. Martyn was sworn in last week to be Arizona’s incoming state Parks Director. As county supervisor, Martyn was paid a salary of $63,800. As state parks director, he will be paid $129,500.
Complaints filed with the A.G.’s Office allege that the Pinal Truth Squad didn’t properly register as an independent expenditure committee, failed to make notification of spending and didn’t identify who paid for ads critical of Florence mayoral candidate Tom Rankin who opposes the mine.
Amid the controversy last week, Martyn announced he was quitting the Truth Squad because “it’s inappropriate for the state parks director to be the head of a group that’s going after a particular business owner,” referring to local developer and water company owner George Johnson, who opposes the mine.
The Truth Squad website and mailers linked Tom Rankin, who won the mayoral race, to Johnson.
Rankin approved of the decision to launch an investigation. “I think a campaign violation did occur,” said Rankin, who won the mayorial race over a pro-mine candidate. “They (Martyn and the mining company) didn’t want me in as mayor because of my opposition to the mine.”
Rankin said he believes the Pinal Truth Squad was financed by Curis, adding, “They’re a foreign corporation to begin with, and they have no business being involved in municipal elections.”
Curis spokeswoman Carol Klimas said in a prepared statement, “Curis Resources is a member of the Pinal Truth Squad, as are many other Pinal businesses and residents. We support the stated intent of the group, which we understand is to expose the truth on various issues throughout Pinal County.”
Results of the attorney general’s inquiry into Truth Squad activities could have a farreaching influence on elections throughout Arizona as to whether organizations can anonymously spend money on political races, according to Johnson’s attorney.
Arizona Elections officials say the state can’t force the Pinal Truth Squad to name its donors, but agreed with Johnson’s attorney that campaign-finance violations occurred. A spokesman for Attorney General Tom Horne said Solicitor General David Cole will handle the inquiry.
If the Pinal Truth Squad broke the law, it could be required to pay up to three times the amount it spent on its independent expenditure.
Curis claims the Florence Copper Project would produce more than 74 million tons of copper each year without disrupting the land surface. Instead, copper would be extracted by pumping millions of gallons of sulfuric acid into the substrata more than 400 to 800 feet underground.
Minerals would then be leached from the soil and sucked to the surface and processed. The process, known as in situ recovery, would require the drilling of 2,000 bore holes to inject the acid and then suck the fluid back out along with leached ore deposits. Curis insists that the technology is environmentally safe, but some Florence officials and surrounding landholders disagree.
Opponents say the project will ultimately pump 5 billion gallons of sulfuric acid into the earth, endangering aquifers, damaging adjacent property values and creating long-term cleanup costs for Arizona taxpayers.
Curis Resources Inc. is affiliated with Canadian mining conglomerate Hunter Dickinson Inc. The company said its Florence Copper Project would invest $280 million during the initial three-year development and employ 170 people. They expect the mine to operate for 30 years.
Written by: Ed Barker