Rose Peddles

People are talking about a young political consultant named Jason Rose. But it's probably not the message he'd like to get across.

Rose's close relationship with Campana--as her friend, campaign manager and her daughter's former boss--came under scrutiny again when it appeared she had a financial interest in Rose's restaurant, Nixon's.

Campana was listed as an investor in the restaurant on invitations when it opened. But today, Rose and Campana both say she was not an investor. It was her boyfriend, Phoenix heart surgeon Lee Ansel, who was involved, and he was recently bought out to avoid any appearance of impropriety, they say.

Before she voted on the stadium district, Campana asked the city attorney whether her relationship with Rose was a conflict of interest. According to the attorney, there was none.

Campana dismisses any suspicions about her friendship with Rose.
"I really was never an investor in [Nixon's]," Campana says, although she implies some connection when she adds that the buyout of Ansel was "Jason's call, and that was fine."

Cassidy Campana says she left Rose and Company because of the complaints over Rose's ties to her mother.

"I think that the projects he works for in Scottsdale are too important for him to get dragged down by something that isn't true," she says. She remains an investor in Nixon's.

Bundgaard also has seen no reason to abstain from policy decisions on his friend's projects. Bundgaard chaired the Senate Finance Committee when it approved a state tax break worth as much as $300 million for the Scottsdale Waterfront project.

Bundgaard was also listed as an investor on the Nixon's invite, but like Campana, he backed out when that was questioned.

Bundgaard says his friendship with Rose had nothing to do with his support of the theme-park designation, which passed the committee unanimously. "Jason and I happen to be friends," he says. "That project stood on its own merits."

Senator Chris Cummiskey, a Democrat who also sits on the finance committee, voted for the Waterfront, but says Bundgaard never made his ties to Rose known. "That's just sort of the status quo around here, unfortunately," he says.

Rose concedes he's flubbed the PR for his own project when it comes to the fallout over recruiting politicians as investors.

"I made a mistake," he says. "When we started, we were a little naive and thought that it was a great idea to get elected officials to invest in Nixon's. As it turns out, elected officials are not a great source of capital, and there is the potential for conflicts there."

As for his friendships with Campana and Bundgaard, Rose says it's just going to happen in his line of work. "Some people work with pipes, some people build semiconductor chips. I work with people who make public decisions . . . that's the arena that I'm in."

Rose's biggest problem may be his inability to get out of his own way, say friends and enemies alike.

Kevin DeMenna puts it this way:
"With Jason, it becomes jihad. As long as the premise for the jihad is in the facts, he succeeds. When he drifts, it's just jihad. And emotion rarely carries the day."

There's no better example of Rose as holy warrior than the highest-profile job of his career so far: Tom McGovern's run for attorney general. Despite being tapped by incumbent Grant Woods as his hand-picked successor, McGovern was widely expected to lose the GOP primary to a party fixture, state senator John Kaites. Kaites had been running hard for the post, raising money and winning favor and endorsements with his work in the Legislature. McGovern had to make up serious ground just to draw even. The race turned into the ugliest contest of the 1998 election.

Rose helped make it that way. He brought his talent for political street fighting to the McGovern team.

"Jason advocated a much more aggressive approach on both defense and offense. . . . He must have asked me three times if I was prepared for what this was going to get like," McGovern says. "It was even more rough-and-tumble than I ever dreamed of."

Rose wrote a direct-mail piece called "A Tale of Two Candidates" that contrasted McGovern's and Kaites' records in excruciating detail. The piece--and the mass of documentation assembled by the campaign to support it--became the foundation that allowed McGovern to ridicule Kaites for his insisting he was tough on crime.

But it also drew fire for misstating a Kaites position on juvenile justice, and McGovern was accused of mudslinging.

The fallout, however, was nothing compared to the blitz Kaites unleashed a week before the primary. Kaites called McGovern a criminal for a long-dismissed charge of marijuana possession. A repeatedly broadcast TV spot showed a computer-altered photo of a bearded McGovern behind bars, even though McGovern was never tried on the charge and said he had never smoked pot.

The McGovern team responded with an expert counterpunch, which Rose says came from Grant Woods. McGovern showed up at Kaites' press conference waving an affidavit he wanted Kaites to sign, swearing Kaites had never smoked marijuana himself. Rose stood in the background, holding a thick binder that he hoped Kaites would think held some sort of political dirt. It turned out the binder was empty.

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