While Arizonans debate the idea of getting big money out of state political campaigns, four Arizonans have been giving big money to federal campaigns. The quartet made the new list of political fat cats put out by Mother Jones magazine--the MoJo 400. Altogether, the foursome accounted for $172,109 of the $35.8 million in contributions to candidates and political parties collected between January 1, 1997, and June 30, 1998.
Phoenix entrepreneur John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix and always a big contributor to liberal political causes, gave $48,600, mostly to Democrats, according to figures compiled by Mother Jones in conjunction with the Center for Responsive Politics.
Paul and Alice Baker of Tucson, listed as owners of Arizona Mail Order Company, split $48,400 between Republicans and Democrats. Mesa businessman Ross Farnsworth, owner of Farnsworth Development Company, gave Republicans $39,000; and Norma Zimdahl of Tucson, who listed her occupation as retired, chipped in $39,109 to Republicans.
This is the third year that Mother Jones has identified the country's top campaign cash cows. As always, Chiquita Banana CEO Carl Lindner, a pal of such Arizonans as Charles Keating, is near the top of the list. This year Lindner, of Cincinnati, came in at No. 4, with $536,000 doled out to Ds and Rs alike.
The biggest contributors, however, were Richard and Helen DeVos, founders of the Amway Corporation, who have ponied up more than $1 million to Republicans.
Most surprising this year, Mother Jones reports, is the extent to which less willing players have been dragged into the giving game. For example, the magazine reports that employees of the Outback Steakhouse have contributions deducted from their paychecks every week because their managers have asked them to. That's allowed Outback to put together the largest political action committee in the restaurant industry, which then works for a cap on the minimum wage and against a national health care plan, among other not-so-employee-friendly issues. Go figure.
Big Red Ain't Green
It matters not whether you're a bunny hugger or a bunny mugger. Either way, before voting you'll be interested in the text of a speech Governor Jane Hull gave last October to the Western States Republican Leadership Conference in Reno, Nevada. Imagine these words, spoken in a monotone, nasal drone:
Republicans must unite to end the War on the West. Environmental laws, truly the most egregious of all regulations, must be controlled. I urge all Congressional delegations to consider themselves guardians of our history and our future. These federal laws, onerous and debilitating, must be eliminated. Thoughtful, reasonable laws can be created that are based on sound science, economic prosperity, and the preservation of the quality of life. Our Western industries and traditions must be preserved.
Arizona is currently under attack by the Clean Air Act. We have performed legislative backflips to comply with all of the EPA's latest and greatest programs--to no avail. We suffer beneath the tyrannical fist of law, badly in need of renovation and downsizing. It was originally based on questionable science and therefore produced dubious prescriptions. Simply put, we gave it all we had, and it was still not enough. It is proposed by the EPA that Arizona be reclassified as "serious."
"Serious" is a simple word with profound effect. Despite our cooperation in good faith, and millions of dollars, we are receiving no recognition or leniency. We did everything within reason and enlisted citizen support, yet the threat of reclassification remains. This may seriously jeopardize our ability to retain and attract business. Irrational federal law, and the constant attempt to create a one-size-fits-all solution, strikes again.
The Endangered Species Act is another example. I check weekly to make sure my grandchild's dog Kelsey has not been placed on the list. For if he were, I would probably have to guarantee him a separate room from us humans with a special diet of imported food.
Allow the Flash to stop here and cackle. Big Red pulled a funny!
Grazing is the current hot spot. There is an all-out frontal attack on ranchers. The movement to remove grazing from BLM lands could very well drive ranching out of Arizona. This movement is based on a misunderstanding of the long-term best interests of the state. Attempting to eliminate any industry tends to have a detrimental ripple effect. The timber industry is a powerful example of that.
Give Me Land
The special election edition of the Arizona Farm Bureau News contains a huge and fascinating chart that maps out legislative candidates' responses to questions of interest to farmers. The first question in the survey notes that only 13 percent of all land in Arizona is privately owned--the other 87 percent is in the hands of federal, state and local governments or Indian reservations. Candidates were asked what percentage they'd like to see in private hands. Three respondents said 100 percent of all land in Arizona should be in private hands. They were incumbent Republicans Lori Daniels and Jeff Groscost and Libertarian challenger Ed Kahn.
The Flash calls dibs on the Grand Canyon.
Johnny Comes Marching Home?
Much has been made of Hull's unwillingness to face Dem challenger Paul Johnson in a debate, but Hull is hardly the biggest culprit in this little game of hide 'n' seek. Where the heck is our Snowy Haired Senator, John McCain? Humble John has ignored his main challenger, Democrat Ed Ranger, and except for a few signs and a few ads, McCain has been nearly invisible.
And those ads . . . couldn't you at least pretend you're running for Senate in Arizona, John? The ads feature shots of McCain in Vietnam and Washington and clearly are designed for a different race, like the one coming up in 2000. The word "Arizona" doesn't appear once. Just take off the "McCain for Senate" tag, replace it with "McCain for President," and you're good to go.
The Flash hears McCain will create a presidential exploratory committee in the next two to three weeks. Meanwhile, polls show he's barely on the national radar screen--and if he is, these days, he's remembered for that Chelsea Clinton/Janet Reno joke he excreted this summer. We'll just sit back and watch. . . . For more information about John McCain's senatorial and presidential aspirations, look him up on "Running John," the New Times Web page devoted to him: www.phoenixnewtimes.com/extra/running_john/index/html
Not Quiet on the West Front
The (yawn) Corporation Commission race is finally showing signs of life. The oft-ignored race for a seat on the three-member panel that regulates Arizona's utilities sparked up when Democrat Paul Newman responded to a hit piece by Republican Tony West, published in the Mesa Tribune.
West accuses Newman of wanting to raise the Salt River Project's electric rates (Newman doesn't), of wanting to set utility rates behind closed doors (wrong again), and saying "false and misleading" things about West's ethics. West even went so far as to say that the Attorney General's Office had "totally refuted" any charges of unethical behavior.
Well, not quite. West does have two opinions from the AG saying his decision to take a double-dipping pension and working outside jobs while serving as state treasurer is legal. But when it comes to whether those decisions were ethical, or even all that bright, the AG's Office reserves comment. Except it does say, in one letter to West, "Common sense and the desire to avoid the appearance of impropriety should dictate an appropriate resolution of this issue."
To West, that probably sounds like a ringing endorsement.
Next Tuesday's ticket toppers are snoozers, but voters in the Phoenix Elementary School District will have an interesting choice: whether to elect Charles Townsel to the board. Townsel's shady track record has been recorded in this and other publications over the years ("Roosevelt Schedules a Townsel-ectomy," March 7, 1996).
In 1996, Townsel lost his job as an administrator for Roosevelt Elementary School District, amid allegations that he bilked the district out of $1,750 in travel and other charges supposedly incurred in the line of duty. In 1980, while living in California, Townsel pleaded guilty to three counts of felony tax evasion. In 1991, at the Roosevelt District, a teacher charged him with sexual harassment; he won that round, after a very public battle. Also, early this decade, he was accused of trying to bilk his girlfriend--and, for a brief time, wife--out of her estate.
Sounds qualified to hold public office in Arizona. One longtime Townsel watcher tells the Flash, "Honestly, if he wins, they deserve him."
See and Be Scene
The Flash got a big dose of Tricky Dick last week during grand-opening festivities at Nixon's. Phoenix's newest bar and grill is touted as a "den of free speech," and that's what it was during its first week, as Democrats and Republicans--many of whom are normally at one another's throats--rubbed shoulders in the cubbyhole of a cafe at the Esplanade.
This Burst of Light spotted an array of pols, including Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan, Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek, Scottsdale Mayor Sam Campana, Phoenix City Councilman Sal DCCO, state reps Scott Bundgaard, Sue Gerard and Barry Wong, Arizona Right to Choose honcho Bruce Miller, Johnson for Governor press secretary Keely Varvel, and Democratic party activist Lon Johnson. Pat "Aunt Maude" McMahon was there. So was AG hopeful Tom McGovern, in a sweatshirt and backward baseball cap; U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon swept past, toting his motorcycle helmet.
The decor is fun and free-spirited, featuring old Life and Time covers and campaign posters. The Flash's favorite wall "art": an old New Times cover about the Don Bolles murder, hanging opposite the toilet. One criticism: The bathroom art is hung too high.
Since he first graced the pages of New Times ("Heavy Competition," October 17, 1996), gasoline exec/tubby triathlete Dave Alexander has been featured in the media worldwide for his amazing athletic feats in the face of fat. His own, that is--Alexander measures up at 5-foot-8, 250 pounds, and still manages to swim five miles, run 30 and cycle 200 a week. If you're bored with election returns, you can see him on PBS's Frontline on November 3, in a segment creatively titled "Fat."
Feed the Flash: voice, 229-8486; fax, 340-8806; online, firstname.lastname@example.org
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.