The Serene Clean Elections Machine

For all that's at stake, the state's most influential lobbyists and businesses are strangely silent on Proposition 200, which would remove them as the primary financiers of election campaigns

Hinz, who is a registered lobbyist and director of a group known as Fairness and Accountability in Insurance Reform, has emerged as spokesman for the opposition.

FAIR is affiliated with the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, and Hinz, who has a daughter with a disability, works to prevent the Legislature from enacting the kind of tort reforms favored by the insurance industry. Virtually all of FAIR's funding comes from lawyers.

Hinz believes the current campaign finance rules serve the public well.
"Historically, we've always been able to follow the money, and if you do that, you can figure out who's supporting the candidates," he says. ". . . [Proposition 200] is going to create the worst kind of stealth candidates, in my opinion."

Patterson, who is not seeking another term in the state Senate, says voters will reject Proposition 200 if they believe their tax dollars are going to political candidates.

"Whether you do or don't think that special interests control the Legislature," he says, "you need to know that the solution that's proposed boils down to government taking over elections and taxpayers funding them."

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Fire Fighters Association and the Farm Bureau Federation are among the groups opposing Proposition 200. Politicians who have spoken against it include secretary of state candidate Art Hamilton, a Democrat who worries that lawmakers in poor districts won't be able to raise $5 contributions from 200 people. Governor Jane Hull is opposed.

Although both sides claim Attorney General Grant Woods is in their camp, a spokeswoman for Woods says he has taken no position. Neither, apparently, has U.S. Senator John McCain, a national campaign-finance-reform crusader. His office did not respond to inquiries. But McCain was quoted recently as saying that Republicans will never agree to public financing of campaigns.

Hinz and Janice Goldstein of the Trial Lawyers Association say they are speaking out against Proposition 200 as individuals, not as representatives of the Trial Lawyers. But both say funds to mount a counterattack are not plentiful.

"Some people gave great advice for TV commercials and didn't put up any money," Goldstein says with a laugh.

Hinz says that by October 26, the opponents had managed to raise more than $20,000 to pay for anti-200 radio ads. He says the group decided not to accept money from tobacco companies or from out of state. Contributing $5,000 each were former state Republican party chair Dodie London, Del Webb Corporation, and the Issues Mobilization Fund (Paine Webber). FAIR and the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association chipped in $1,000 apiece, while Goldstein and fellow lobbyist Kevin DeMenna put up $500 each. Also giving $500 were Harry Cavanaugh and the Mobile Home Association. Hinz himself contributed $100.

FAIR's donation raised eyebrows among members of the Trial Lawyers Association, which has taken no position on Proposition 200. Hinz says FAIR has a six-member board, and that two officers--Ken Clancy and Marty Solomon, who is also president of the Trial Lawyers Association--authorized the FAIR contribution over the phone. The money went toward research into Proposition 200, Hinz says. Neither Clancy nor Solomon responded to requests for interviews.

"I'm concerned if FAIR money has been used in that effort," says Michael Valder, a Trial Lawyers Association member who has contributed to FAIR and Arizonans for Clean Elections.

By law, people raising money for campaigns must form a committee and register with the secretary of state. When Not With the People's Money filed its papers on October 16, Crystal Flot of Mesa was listed as committee chair. When she spoke to New Times on October 19, she still had not read Proposition 200.

"I was supposed to be given a copy of it, but they haven't given me one yet," says Flot, a housewife and mother of three. "I was kind of told the general meaning of it."

Flot said she was recruited to chair the committee by Judith Connell, a former pro-life activist who now is registered as a lobbyist for the Trial Lawyers, among others.

"She told me briefly about it [Proposition 200], and I said, 'It doesn't sound good to me.' And she asked me if I wanted to get involved, and I said, 'Sure.'"

Flot said she would get a copy of the ballot measure as soon as possible, concluding, "I want to know what I'm standing for, exactly."

Are electoral politics in Arizona so corrupted by campaign cash that sweeping reforms are necessary?

Jay Heiler doesn't think so. "I think what really leads to all this [Proposition 200] is the first assumption of reform advocates--that most or all of what ails our politics is rooted in the campaign finance system. I reject that premise," Heiler says. "That's not to say that the current system is perfect. I can say that I have never gotten the idea that our campaign finance system was driving the public policy choices of our officials."

Tom Patterson echoes that sentiment, saying, "The local media would have you believe there's a sinister lobbyist influence that overwhelms the Legislature. It's basically a myth and misconception, and it's a very popular myth."

Proposition 200 backers don't cite specific examples of quid pro quo--cases in which campaign contributions can be linked to specific legislation. They do cite a column written this summer by an official of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce that boasts that business interests were handed $90 million in tax breaks during the 1998 legislative session.

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