PHOENIX (KSAZ) - There are new claims that this controversial President Donald Trump billboard near Grand Avenue and Taylor was paid for with taxpayer money. That's the connection a conservative watchdog group is trying to make with a new report.
The owner of the billboard adamantly denies that taxpayer money was used to fund the billboard. It has garnered a lot of attention, it's even been the site of vandalism, but both the billboard's owner and the city of Phoenix say the report is false.
This billboard made national headlines since it went up about two months ago. President Trump appears to be surrounded by mushroom clouds and swastikas turned in to dollar signs. Conservative leaning think tank Judicial Watch now says it was paid for with city grant money.
"There's an alarming connection between the events and the event director and the coordinators, there's a clear connection between grant money, that event, and several events and those people involved with it, yes," said Judicial Watch's Mark Spencer.
The billboard went up during Phoenix's "Art Detour" event. The report links the billboard's owner, Beatrice Moore, to $3,500 worth of grant money from the city of Phoenix for Art Detour.
"I think it's a reasonable connection to see that taxpayer money funding the event and that billboard sits in the middle of it all," said Spencer.
Moore says the report is baseless.
"There's no information in any of these documents that indicates the billboard project was paid by any public funding."
Moore says the billboard was put up with all private funds. The city of Phoenix agreed in a statement released Wednesday afternoon:
"The city of Phoenix did not donate money directly to Beatrice Moore in 2016 or 2017. In 2016, Grand Avenue Arts and Preservation applied for a grant for the Grand Avenue Arts Festival. Moore was the contact on the grant application, but she was not the grant recipient. The festival was held on November 12, 2016, before the Trump billboard was created. Artlink (an independent, local arts non-profit) also applied for a grant to print maps for the 2017 Art Detour event in Phoenix. The grant application was approved for that purpose only. The money went directly to Artlink. Moore is not an Artlink director or officer. And whatever her past affiliation with Artlink may have been, there is no evidence that the grant money donated for Art Detour maps was spent on the Trump billboard.
Phoenix’s Community Arts Grants program has been around for more than 30-years and has a solid history of providing grant funding to non-profit organizations. The grants are awarded through a rigorous and transparent process which was followed thoroughly in this instance."
"The right is clearly looking for a way to discredit public funding for the arts which has been part of their myopic right wing agenda for years," said Moore.
Judicial Watch report on the billboard (Can't see the document? Click here)