"My wife is down at the stables, seeing to the horses. Call her there." The crisp note of annoyance was obvious in the voice of John C. Pritzlaff, the former United States ambassador to Malta.

Pritzlaff, now retired to his home and stables in Montecito, California, is the father-in-law of Governor J. Fife Symington III.

I was trying to reach Mrs. Pritzlaff because of a strange letter she had written to me.

It was brief. It said the following:

"I would like to correct one statement that appeared in your column yesterday [December 11]. I did not loan Fife Symington any money during his campaign for Governor. It was his mother and his wife only.

Mrs. John C. Pritzlaff
(Fife's Mother-in-law)"

The amount in question was approximately $1.5 million, which isn't all that much in Symington circles.

But people keep bringing up the loan, which was pumped into Symington's campaign at a late date and tipped the scales in the governor's race.

The loan has become the subject of a lawsuit filed by Common Cause, which charges that the loan far exceeds limitations placed on such contributions by Arizona law.

But Attorney General Grant Woods, like Symington a Republican, has ruled the loan is legal because it was an act of "love." Woods decided the loan wasn't given with the intent to manipulate the gubernatorial election.

But, of course. We all understand. All the money did for Symington was to supply the margin of victory. What's wrong with that? Why have rich relatives if they can't come in at the last minute and buy an election for you?

In Symington's case, all the money did was buy enough television advertising time so Symington could squeak out a victory over Democrat Terry Goddard.

Donating more than a million dollars when there is a limitation of $250 isn't illegal. There is a fine distinction. It's merely an act of love. It's something we all should understand.

Actually, as everyone knows, the loan was given to Symington by his wife, Ann, and his mother.

"I don't want to be involved in any of this," Mrs. Pritzlaff said.
"There is one question," I said.
"What is it?"

"Why didn't you loan any money to Fife?" "I don't want to say anything about that," she said.

Mrs. Pritzlaff already was aware of a voters' poll in which a growing number of Arizonans had said that Symington should resign and devote his energies to his business problems.

"I don't want to get into that at all," Mrs. Pritzlaff said.
"Does that mean he shouldn't resign?"
"That means I don't want to have anything to say about this," she said.

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Tom Fitzpatrick