Where'd Fife's Dough Go?
Although they won guilty verdicts on seven felony counts, federal prosecutors haven't stopped working to assure that former governor J. Fife Symington III winds up in the slammer.
With sentencing looming February 2, prosecutors continue to pick apart Symington's personal finances in an attempt to show why the ex-guv should be sentenced to 10 years in prison, pay at least a $15,000 fine and repay more than $20 million he swindled from lenders.
Forensic accountant Stephen D. Loveman has picked over the Fifester's fraudulent financial carcass and discovered a few tidbits to bolster prosecutors' contention that Symington's protracted con game contributed mightily to his opulent lifestyle.
Loveman analyzed Symington's income and expenses between 1986 and 1991, excluding any expenditures and income from his wealthy wife, Ann. Loveman found that, during this period, Symington spent more than $50,000 skiing, $100,000 for household employees and $55,000 for club dues and expenses.
But that's just for starters. Symington's real joy appears to be travel. In an affidavit filed with U.S. District Court Judge Roger B. Strand, Loveman stated that Symington spent $280,000 on travel--a whopping $46,666 a year.
Where did he get his play money? He was draining huge sums from his development business, The Symington Company, whose funds came largely from loans Symington obtained by submitting false personal financial statements and lying to lenders.
Symington pulled more than $1.5 million in shareholder distributions from his company during the six-year period, in addition to another $500,000 in salary.
That's not all. The Fifester also pocketed $500,000 in a shady deal involving the Scottsdale Seville and his late mother. That deal has come under fire in U.S. Bankruptcy Court by union pension funds seeking to block Symington's discharge of more than $12 million on loans and interest he never repaid in connection with the Mercado retail plaza.
Fife's Ghost Lingers
Just when you thought the state had a chance to rid itself of the petty politics practiced by the Fifester, portentous signs appear.
First, the Fifester's replacement, Governor Jane Dee Hull, embraces the political machine overseen by U.S. Senator John McCain, hiring D.C. operative and McCain/Symington spin doctor Jay Smith to run her gubernatorial campaign.
Then, after telling the Arizona Republic she believes Symington should go to prison, she gets called on the carpet by the Fifester and his small but vindictive band of loyalists.
Hull goes into a hand-wringing, forgive-me mode, claiming through a spokeswoman that she was merely innocently mouthing what others were saying. Not satisfied to end it there, the new guv felt she had to go all the way to mollify Fife's never-say-die band, suggesting Fife should walk free.
Some admirers call Hull "Iron Jane." "Aluminum Foil Jane" seems more apt.
If the events described above suggest that the Fifester's political ghost has found a place in Hull's attic, it gets worse.
Hull's successor-by-appointment as secretary of state, former Maricopa County Supervisor Betsey Bayless, schedules a fund raiser at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel for January 8 ($300 per head, $500 per couple)--and the host committee Bayless recruits reads like a Who's Who of the Fifester's inner circle.
One is the architect of Symington's goofy right-wing agenda, Jay Heiler, regarded by Capitol railbirds as the Rasputin who transformed Symington from nonthinking prepolitician airhead to a walking, talking automaton of the Far Right.
Then there's the Fifester's apologist to the end, Chuck Coughlin, his companion at the criminal trial who continues defending Symington as a pure, noble, guiltless public servant.
Also listed as hosts for Bayless are Wes and Deb Gullett. He was Fife's onetime chief of staff, a gift from McCain, for whom Gullett had served as campaign manager. Deb, McCain's trusted confidante and aide, is known in Republican circles for tough, gritty phone calls to those who stray.
Also listed as a Bayless host is Big Tobacco's Arizona arm-twister and Mr. Fixit, Don Isaacson, the man who, in just a brief meeting, was able to convince Symington to make one of the biggest political blunders of his career--refusing to cooperate with Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods' multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which Woods won, Isaacson lost.
Good ol' Bob Fannin is there, too, as a host. Fannin is a chameleon lobbyist whose loyalties shift with the winds; he helped raise funds for Symington's criminal legal defense fund.
Symington's in-house legal adviser Jackie Vieh is a member of the host committee, too. Her hubby, Jim, represented Fife during his RTC travails, and Jackie's appointment to the Ninth Floor was seen as a payback for the huge legal bills Fife couldn't pay.
And finally, Team Bayless includes Tracy Thomas, the right-winger whose position on the ideological spectrum makes the Fifester look like a pinko. Thomas is listed as a co-chairman of the Bayless cash bash.
It's rather pathetic. Hull, et al., have a chance to reverse the direction of the loony past six years. Instead, she trembles when Symington's minuscule cult growls, and Bayless laps up campaign help from those who helped add to Arizona's reputation for lunacy and never uttered a peep about the Symington scandal-in-the-making.
Judge our new leaders by the company they keep.
New Faces of '67
In spite of the title of his employer's publication, it looks like Get Out movie reviewer Max McQueen doesn't get out much himself, judging from last week's review of Jackie Brown, the latest Quentin Tarantino epic.
In McQueen's critique, the intrepid multiplex habitue acknowledges the work of Pam Grier, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton, but saves his big praise for "newcomer" Robert Forster, a talent whom the critic characterizes as "the man to watch."
If McQueen is really interested in watching this up-and-comer, the Flash suggests he rent any of the 40 or so films Forster has appeared in since making his film debut opposite Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando in John Huston's Reflections in a Golden Eye--31 years ago.
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.
- Inmates Accuse Arizona of Experimenting with Lethal-Injection Drugs
- 10 Things Arizonans Hate About Snowbirds
- Scottsdale Couple Are Pioneers in Tiny-Home Movement in Arizona