THE BEST OF FIFE

HE BROUGHT US AN RTC LAWSUIT, A GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION AND A "CAR OF THE PEOPLE." NOT TO MENTION GEORGE LECKIE AND ANNETTE ALVAREZ. OH, WHAT THE HECK, WE'LL MENTION THEM.

Leckie resigned from Symington's inner circle after he busted the governor's office budget. But he didn't travel far--he was named the co-chief of Project SLIM.

He left state government in 1992 after it was revealed that he had charged the state $1,336.23 for a trip to Hawaii he and his girlfriend took on the way back from state business in Japan. He 'fessed up, reimbursing the state and telling reporters, "Upon reflection, I didn't have any business [in Hawaii]." Again, he didn't go far. In 1993, then-state lottery director Bruce Mayberry threatened to revoke the performance bond of a contractor, GTECH, if it didn't agree to changes in its contract. A week later, Fife called Mayberry and asked him to transfer to another agency. Mayberry refused and was fired three months later. What was Leckie's role? He was GTECH's lobbyist.

Leckie's name came up again just last week, when state legislators revealed that he was a player in a damning audit of the Office of Tourism released recently. According to state Senator Patti Noland, Republican-Tucson, Leckie ordered the department to create a $30,000 job for an unnamed employee.

"I get blamed for almost everything," Leckie whined to a local daily. "If they can't find anybody else, they throw my name in."

We can't imagine why.
Best ideologue: In the mid-Eighties, Jay Heiler was one of the postpubescent Reaganites who took control of Arizona State University's State Press and got ASU a reputation as a Petri dish of conservative thought. Now it's the mid-Nineties, and Heiler's emerged as Fife's communications czar and philosophical salt lick. Heiler writes speeches, schmoozes the Capitol press corps (tries, at least) and comes up with policies that have made Symington the darling of the National Review set.

Best bully, er, we mean lawyer: John Dowd nailed Pete Rose and George Steinbrenner for Major League Baseball, defended Keating Fiver John McCain and tried to keep Cindy McCain's pill-popping out of the papers. He's Fife's 800-pound gorilla. In Lords of the Realm, a critically acclaimed account of Major League Baseball's labor history, author John Helyar describes Dowd as "a blunderbuss"--always messy, often inaccurate and occasionally lethal.

Dowd can be counted on to write threatening letters to any publication that dares to write anything negative about Symington, and has been known to fax the missives to competing reporters to keep them in line.

Commenting on Dowd's intimidation tactics, New Times executive editor Michael Lacey once wrote of Dowd and Symington, "These two respond to what they perceive as unjust criticism of the governor with legal violence the way victims of Tourette's syndrome bark: instinctively, loudly, helplessly."

That pretty much sums it up. Reporters and editors at publications from the Arizona Republic to Institutional Investor to the Washington Post collect horror stories of Dowd's browbeating. So far, though, he's kept Fife above water.

Best spin doctor: In 1992, political consultant Jay Smith offered stinging commentary on life in these United States, specifically as it relates to the RTC's pursuit of Fife. Smith told the Washington Post: "The RTC has been doing this to people all over America--they've been pilloried, sued, just because they were on the boards of S&Ls. This is more like Nazi Germany."

Best friend in Congress: John McCain. When Barbara Barrett announced that she intended to challenge Fife in September's Republican gubernatorial primary, she found herself face to face with Senator McCain, Friend of Fife and self-anointed enforcer of the Arizona Republican party.

"I told her [Barrett] there are consequences associated with causing other candidates to be defeated," McCain told New Times.

Fife and the senator share everything--from hair color to ideology (conservative) to counsel (John Dowd and Jay Smith) to staff (Symington chief of staff Wes Gullett came from the McCain camp).

Best invitation to organized crime: Fife originally named Mark Mazzie, a former employee of the City of Scottsdale, to be his liquor czar. But Mazzie took the job a little too seriously. He actually tried to enforce the law. That was annoying, but Mazzie really went too far when he tried to make the just-opened America West Arena comply with liquor regulations.

Phoenix Suns execs slam-dunked $2,000 into Fife's campaign coffers, and the governor canned Mazzie. Mazzie's replacement was Howard Adams, a former Phoenix councilmember dubbed "Mr. Inside" and "High Rise Howard" in the late Eighties because of his prodevelopment stance.

Upon his appointment to head the Liquor Department, he became known by employees as "Howard the Coward." In one of his first moves as director, he canceled the hearing that may have resulted in penalties against America West Arena.

Best Dan Quaylelike appointee: Sure, Jim Marsh came to the job of Commerce Department director with a background in business. Most notably, he was the leasing agent for one of Fife's biggest busts: the Mercado. But Marsh had the most important qualification of today's executive--he's a damn good golfer. Like, championship good.

Coincidentally, under Marsh, Commerce began to spend a lot of taxpayer dollars on golf-related items. Like, $2,850 for tickets and access badges for the Phoenix Open golf tournament. And like, at least $6,815 for golf balls and clubs purchased from Karsten Manufacturing, to be used as promotional material. And don't forget, like, $2,656 worth of golf caps, to tout the Arizona Film Commission.

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