Pols to the Wall

Environmental Fund of Arizona includes, among others, Sierra Club, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Grand Canyon Trust and Animal Legal Defense Fund. Founded in 1993, the fund has already been included in workplace campaigns covering the City of Tucson and federal employees in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties.

Philip Moulton, an employee of the Arizona Corporation Commission and chairman of the applications subcommittee for the State Employees Charitable Campaign, says the state used to include environmental groups, but decided this year to exclude such groups because he believes they do not meet the United Way criteria. Groups that had been included in the past were allowed to take part this year, he says, but will not be included in the future.

The steering committee agreed with Moulton. The panel is composed of 12 state agency heads; coincidentally, the committee does not include agency heads from agencies that oversee environmental regulations, such as Department of Environmental Quality or Department of Water Resources.

As usual, Arizona isn't on the cutting edge of social consciousness.
Jim Abernathy, executive director of the Environmental Support Center in Washington, D.C., says, "It's becoming the exception rather than the rule that state and local governments exclude environmental federations or other alternative groups."

He and other environmentalists cite studies that say, "when choices are introduced into the system, the total amount of money going into the charities goes up . . . very significantly."

Abernathy doesn't buy the argument that workplace giving should exclude environmental causes because such causes don't include health services.

"If preventing air pollution is not health-related, I don't know what is," he says. Phoenix City Councilmember Craig Tribken agrees. He's spent two years trying to convince the city's Community Service Fund Drive to include environmental groups such as Environmental Fund for Arizona. Unlike the state, it's never allowed them.

"I don't get it. I just plain don't get it," says Tribken. "They [workplace fund drives] only do things that quote, help people, and this carries with it the presumption that environmental groups don't help people."

So far, Tribken has been unsuccessful, and chairperson Dee Wheeler-Cronin, who heads the city's 15-employee fund-drive committee, says she doesn't expect he ever will be.

While the outlook is bleak, Stephanie Nichols-Young, corporate secretary for Environmental Fund of Arizona, isn't worried. "It's going to take time to educate people that we're here," she says.

A Closet Altruist
Last year, Echo, a magazine catering to Arizona's gay and lesbian population, handed its first "Turkey of the Year" award to U.S. Senator John McCain in honor of his decision to address the Oregon Citizens Alliance, a group that opposes gay rights.

So it's not surprising that another publication, The U Report (whose motto is "The Paper for People Who Know That It's In to Go Out!"), recently carried a raging debate on the topic of McCain's decision to serve as an honorary co-host of the Community AIDS Council's second annual AIDS Recognition Awards dinner, held last Saturday at the Ritz-Carlton.

Local and Washington, D.C., AIDS activists, physicians and other community members addressed the topic, in a two-page feature titled "John McCain: Saint or Satan."

McCain did not return phone calls from New Times.

Many activists said they welcome McCain's interest and support.
But not everyone. Ty Ross, identified as a "businessman" but better known as the grandson of former U.S. senator Barry Goldwater, offered his opinion: "He [McCain] always manages to turn everything to his benefit. A couple of years ago, he jumped on the bandwagon for this big event which was supposed to be for my grandfather [Barry Goldwater]. The whole thing turned into a big spotlight for McCain's political campaign for that year. He's a political prostitute. But the bottom line is money, and if he can bring it in for AIDS, well . . ."

McCain made a personal contribution of $1,000, says CAC chairperson Beth Meyer. But he didn't make it to the dinner. He was called away on more pressing business, Meyer says--to campaign for Republicans in other states.

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