During the trial of former state Sen. Jon Woods and consultant Randell Shelton, the prosecution described Shelton’s Paradigm Strategic Consulting as a “bogus company.”
According to the federal indictment, the company mainly existed to conceal kickback payments made by former Ecclesia College president Oren Paris III to former state Sen. Jon Woods and former state Rep. Micah Neal. Paris and Neal pleaded guilty; Woods and Shelton were found guilty last week.
But Rep. Jana Della Rosa, who paid Paradigm in 2014 for help with campaign messaging, said that Shelton did legitimate work for her.
According to evidence presented at the trial, total deposits to Paradigm from 2013 through 2015 were $285,994. Of that, $267,000 came from Ecclesia, making up 93.4 percent of Paradigm’s business. According to his defense team, the consulting Shelton offered to Ecclesia was for help with fundraising, and the money that Shelton wired to Woods was loans or to pay back loans. The government contended that the consulting business was in fact set up to funnel the kickback payments.
Of the sliver of payments to Paradigm outside of Ecclesia, one was $2,500 that Della Rosa paid on August 21, 2014 for “consulting for 2014 election cycle,” according to her campaign finance disclosure forms.
“He helped me with messaging, especially during my first campaign, because I didn’t know anything about anything,” Della Rosa said. “He helped with all my messaging for my mailers, some of it for the website, but mostly in the mailers, which in these kinds of races are key.”
Della Rosa said she was satisfied with the services that he provided. “I know he helped me and I paid him for it, and that was legit,” she said.
“I never got a penny back, in any way at all whatsoever,” she added. “I’m sure the feds have already gone through my records.”
Della Rosa said federal investigators never talked to her: “They called me one time, and I said, ‘nah, I’m really not enjoying what you guys are doing to people, no thanks.'”
She said that she believed Shelton had done legitimate fundraising work for Ecclesia. “If you look at the emails and the texts that were going back and forth, he was definitely working on something,” she said. “It was fundraising — that’s not what he did for me so I couldn’t tell you if he was a good fundraiser or not. I never used him for that.”
As for the work that Paradigm did for her, she said, “If [the government] had brought it up and been fair about it, it would have shown that he did not have an illegitimate business. He did actually do work. They’re claiming that he set up this company specifically to funnel money to a legislator. But in my case, a legislator paid him.”
In a lively telephone conversation, Della Rosa also said something I don’t think I’ve heard any other officeholder say on the record: She believes that Woods and Shelton are innocent.
“I think that the feds did a great job of making it look like they did something wrong,” she said.