REINVENTING THE BIG WHEEL

DERAILED BY AZSCAM, DEMOCRATIC OPERATIVE MIKE CRUSA HAS WAGED HIS BEST CAMPAIGN YET---TO SALVAGE HIS OWN CAREER

@body:The Summit Group's client list continues to expand. Last week Robert Mitchell was elected mayor of Casa Grande; the week before, Ella Makula won a seat on Peoria's city council. Crusa is in the process of signing a contract with a well-known national political organization.

The ultimate challenge, of course, would be a presidential campaign. Maybe someday, Crusa says wistfully.

Meanwhile, Rick DeGraw--the onetime Democratic kingmaker whose exit from the political field via nine AzScam felony indictments opened the market for Crusa--is teaching for a community college.

He answers his office telephone cheerfully. No, he has no antipathy for Crusa. He considers him a friend. Although they were both political operatives, their situations were different, he says; Crusa's ordeal with the County Attorney's Office took a few days, while DeGraw's lasted almost two years. And, of course, DeGraw was actually indicted on charges that he attempted to disguise Vincent contributions to political candidates. In the end, it is likely that only a few will remember that he plea-bargained the charges down to a $1,000 fine and a misdemeanor charge the equivalent of a traffic ticket. No, DeGraw says, he's not surprised by Crusa's success of late. After all, he adds, "Candidates are squeamish, but they're not stupid." They know Crusa can help them win.

DeGraw laughs softly, under his breath. "Clinton even asked Richard Nixon for advice.

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