Arizona Democratic candidate for governor David Garcia has said repeatedly he'll take no money from lobbyists — and his critics are helping him stick to that promise.
On Monday, Phoenix New Times received a tip that Garcia's campaign had taken lobbyist money. The tipster emailed a list of 18 people registered with the state as active lobbyists, (a 19th turned out to be inaccurate), and their contributions to Garcia's campaign, which ranged between $200 and $1,000. New Times agreed to keep the source of the tip anonymous.
The contributions came to a total of $6,910. After she was told about the donations, Sarah Elliott, Garcia's campaign spokesperson, said quickly that the money would be returned to the 18 donors.
"The other team has done our work for us," Elliot quipped. She denied that returning lobbyist donations after the campaign has accepted them meant Garcia had broken his campaign pledge. "When we find these, we return them. We don't take lobbyists' money."
Garcia, a scholar who's dedicated much of his life to education policy, is competing against challengers Steve Farley and Kelly Fryer for the August 28 primary election. If he's successful, Garcia will face off in the November 6 general election against Republican incumbent Doug Ducey. Some polls show Garcia has a chance.
Garcia has said he'll run an "honest government" and root out corruption.
"I don’t take corp. PAC or lobbyist $," he tweeted on June 21, in one of many similar pronouncements. "I'll fight to make corps. & the wealthiest pay their fair share so our kids can get a good education & our workers a living wage. I’ll put an end to the pay-to-play system in govt. & work for you."
I don’t take corp. PAC or lobbyist $. I'll fight to make corps. & the wealthiest pay their fair share so our kids can get a good education & our workers a living wage. I’ll put an end to the pay-to-play system in govt. & work for you. #dg4az #FromUs #ForUs https://t.co/MnS6VbvNa0— David Garcia (@dg4az) June 12, 2018
Actually, he does take lobbyist $. As the Arizona Capitol Times' exclusive news publication Yellow Sheet reported on July 19, Garcia took two $250 donations from Arizona lobbyist Rip Wilson. When Yellow Sheet reporter contacted Garcia's campaign about the donations, Elliott reported that the money had already been refunded — a fact that Wilson soon confirmed for the paper.
Garcia didn't respond to a request for comment. But Elliott said that like Wilson, the 18 donors to Garcia's campaign on the lobbyist list had listed their occupation as something other than lobbyist. The list included David Bodney, a Ballard Spahr LLP attorney who provides legal counsel to the Arizona Republic. He donated $250. Bodney is also a former editor of New Times.
Edmundo Hidalgo, president and CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa, donated $1,000, the highest of the lobbyists on the list.
Other donations to Garcia's campaign that will now reportedly be returned include $650 from John Osborne of the AZ Trial Lawyers Association, $500 and $100, respectively, from Planned Parenthood Arizona executives Bryan Howard, (CEO) and Jodi Liggett (vice president of public affairs), and several school district officials.
Garcia didn't know any of the donors were registered lobbyists when the campaign took in the money, Elliott said, pointing out that nearly 20,000 people have donated to the campaign.
She added that some of the school officials are required to register as lobbyists as part of their jobs, and aren't the representatives of for-profit corporations Garcia was thinking of when he made his pledge. Nevertheless, after reviewing the list of lobbyists, Elliot confirmed that Garcia's campaign will return the cash, she said.
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In any case, returning the donations probably won't have a big financial impact on the campaign, which has raised more than $850,000 as of June 30, state records show.
Below: the list of lobbyists who donated to Garcia's campaign, and who will now received a refund. (The campaign determined that the last name on the list George Diaz Jr., is incorrect, and that the donor was George Diaz Sr., who isn't a lobbyist.)