Developers Push To Ban Public Funds For Clean Elections

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Developers, insurance companies and other businesses are contributing thousands of dollars to kill the state's voluntary system of public financing.

New reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office shows that the main organization pushing repeal has collected $144,900 to push the measure that would virtually repeal the 1998 voter-approved law by cutting off its main source of cash. Nearly all of that has been spent to hire people to circulate petitions to put the issue on the ballot.

That figure does not include another $110,000 which has been added to the warchest since the first of the year.

Campaign organizer Nathan Sproul said the funds are paying off: He said he has 150,000 of the 183,917 signatures he needs.

The largest contribution so far is from Eric Crown, chairman of the board of Tempe-based Insight Enterprises. Crown, also the chairman of the No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee, has kicked in $30,000.

There are $20,000 donations from Fulton Homes and J.W. Teets Enterprises, a real estate and venture capital firm.

Not far behind is Congressman Jeff Flake who has diverted $19,000 from his own congressional campaign fund to the repeal effort.

But there are many other five-digit donors ranging from organizations like the Arizona Association of Realtors and the Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona to individuals like Tucson developer Don Diamond.

By contrast, the Keep It Clean Committee which is trying to preserve public financing reported it had collected only $17,882.

Wes Gullett, chairman of that effort, said the list of contributors to the other side does not surprise him.

"It's the guys that used to run our state," he said.

"Now they're out and want back in," Gullett continued. "They're spending their money to buy back in."

But Tom Farley, government relations director for the Realtors, said there is no such motive.

He said several organization members were upset with how some of the candidates spent their money last time around.

That included what some said was negative campaigning by Richard Mahoney, an independent candidate for governor two years ago. Among the commercials Mahoney bought with his share of public financing was one which suggested that Republican Matt Salmon would not crack down on polygamy in Colorado City because he is a Mormon.

Others, like Ross Farnsworth, whose developments include Sunland Springs Village, said public financing is not fair. He said a better system would be to let anyone contribute to any candidate and require prompt public disclosure, allowing voters to decide if something is amiss.

Sproul said this isn't a question of trying to ensure that candidates supported by business are the ones with the most money -- and the ones that get elected.

In fact, he noted, the current system actually gives more influence to groups like the Realtors who have the resources to go out and help a candidate gather the necessary $5 donations to qualify for public funding.

The 1998 law sets up a system of voluntary public financing for candidates for statewide and legislative offices. Those who gather the requisite number of $5 donations -- an indication of public support -- are entitled to set amounts of public financing, dependent on the office sought.

Most of that money comes from surcharges on civil, criminal and traffic fines. There also are donations made which reduce an individual's tax liability, essentially reducing state revenues.

The initiative technically leaves public financing in place. But it prohibits any of those public dollars from going into the pot, effectively killing the system.

Major contributors

Lyle P. Campbell -- $5,000

Compass BancPAC -- $10,000

Common Sense Coalition -- $15,000

Eric Crown -- $30,000

Donald R. Diamond -- $10,000

Karl Eller -- $10,000

William A. Estes Jr. -- $10,000

Ross Farnsworth -- $10,000

Jeff Flake for Congress -- $19,000

Fulton Homes Sales Corp. -- $20,000

Golden Rule Insurance Co. -- $10,000

Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona -- $10,000

J.R. Norton Co. -- $5,000

K.E.G. Kendrick Jr. -- $10,000

Londen Insurance Group -- $5,000

Realtors Issues Mobilization Committee -- $10,000

Howard S. Rich -- $5,000

Robson Communities -- $5,000

Shamrock Foods Co. -- $9,500

J.W. Teets Enterprises -- $20,000

Viad Corp. -- $5,000

-- Source: Filings with Secretary of State's Office

See the article on Arizona Daily Sun website

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