Don Moon is not an easy man to intimidate. Physically, he is only slightly smaller than a grizzly bear. Within state political circles, Moon, a Phoenix attorney, is considered shrewd and streetwise.
But when a cop tipped him that he was the target of a vendetta by a local Hispanic street gang, Moon says he started to sweat. The homeboys were miffed because Moon was representing one of their number, a member not in good standing, who was the state's star witness in the murder trial of the gang leader. "I had negotiated this arrangement for my client," Moon explains. "The word on the street was that the gang had a contract out on me."
Moon turned to the only man he knew who could reach into the tough barrios of South Phoenix and make his problem go away--Alfredo Gutierrez, champion of the poor, all-American success story, hero of the state's liberal activists.
Less than a mile from the barrios, but light-years away in social and economic terms, executives from the giant Oregon-based utility PacifiCorp made a similar determination last year as they huddled in a Phoenix high-rise planning a takeover bid against Arizona Public Service Company. The PacifiCorp executives knew their campaign needed at least tacit support from the state's business and political mandarins.
So they went looking for the man who could take them straight into the governor's office and every private club in town--Alfredo Gutierrez, the prince of Phoenix influence peddlers.
Ten years separate the exit of the unlucky gang leader from the appearance of PacifiCorp on the local scene, yet both instances illustrate something about their common denominator. Coming into the 1990s, it would be difficult to identify anyone with greater, albeit hidden, influence than Alfredo Gutierrez, fund raiser, strategist and confidant of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard.
And if, three weeks from now, it's not "Governor Goddard" but "Who?," Alfredo need not fret. He's in good field position with Fife Symington, Goddard's Republican opponent in the governor's race. Gutierrez, one may recall, is the man who helped Symington squeeze the Phoenix City Council for an extra 500,000 square feet of commercial space over what it had intended to allow in Symington's Camelback Esplanade development.
From grassroots hero to Mr. Fixit for the powerful. A lesser man might be ruined by such an irreconcilable conflict, but not Alfredo. As more than one local leader has come to discover, Alfredo has simply made himself too indispensable to hate.
GUTIERREZ WAS DEMOCRATIC minority leader in the state Senate ten years ago when Don Moon, then a criminal-defense attorney, sought his help with the street gang. "These were not just a group of wayward lads," Moon says. "I mean, we are talking farm team for the Mexican Mafia."
Gutierrez paid a visit to the gang's inner-city neighborhood and telephoned back the following day. "Alfredo said, `You do not have a problem anymore,'" Moon recalls. "I have no clue how he was able to swing such clout. The fact is, those guys look up to him." (Gutierrez says he merely urged the youths to use common sense, impressing upon them the fact that murdering an officer of the court would only complicate their lives.)
By the time PacifiCorp approached him, Gutierrez had retired from the Senate to become a private political consultant. Thanks in large part to his help, PacifiCorp almost succeeded in prying APS away from its entrenched management. PacifiCorp unquestionably won the public-relations war, also orchestrated upon Gutierrez's advice, as surveys showed a majority of the public was rooting for the invader instead of APS.
Inside the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), the state's feisty utility regulators were openly sympathetic with PacifiCorp. The governor's office, rather than voicing the expected concern about takeover of a major local employer, remained silent.
Gutierrez just happens to have ties with key people in both offices dating back at least two decades.
He rallied students at Arizona State University with Renz Jennings, one of the three-member corporation commission, back in the 1960s. Gutierrez also teamed up with fellow Democrat Marcia Weeks, who now chairs the ACC, on numerous issues when both were state legislators in the 1970s.
Gutierrez's ties with the governor's office are even more personal. He was born in the eastern Arizona mining town of Miami, making him nearly next-door neighbors with Globe native Governor Rose Mofford, also a Democrat. Former Mofford aide Art Othon, now working for Terry Goddard (but still housed in Mofford's office), is a personal friend.
"We were advised that he was the best [local contact] we could hire," says Dennis Steinberg, one of the PacifiCorp takeover strategists. "In fact, it was suggested [by PacifiCorp's legal advisers] we should hire him, even if we didn't think we needed his help, if only to keep the other side from doing so."