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CLEAN BREAK: The state Supreme Court upheld the funding system of Arizona's Clean Elections program, rejecting arguments that a 10 percent surcharge on civil and criminal fines was unconstitutional. So if you break the law, you'll be paying for posters of Libertarian Kimberly Swanson looming over the city in her red, white and blue bikini.

Oh well, no system's perfect. One thing that Clean Elections has done is make reporting on campaign financing a lot easier. Candidates start out the gate with a set amount and have their gas tank refilled every time their traditionally funded opponents cross certain thresholds--which is why Democrat Janet Napolitano and Independent Dick Mahoney get more checks as Republican Matt Salmon raises more money. So far, including what he spent on the primary, Salmon had burned through more than $1.5 million of the $1.7 million he'd raised as of October 10.

The Clean Elections program has doled out a total of $3,215,619 for the general election. Some critics of Clean Elections note that the nastiest two campaigns of the year--those run by Mahoney and Republican AG candidate Andrew Thomas--have been publicly funded. True enough, but we've seen plenty of gutter balls from the private sector. Republican Tom Horne spent his own money on those nasty attacks that laid out Jaime Molera in the Republican primary for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. And the two political committees that hammered away at Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias in the Democratic primary for the Board of Supervisors were funded by the local business community. So it's not like this kind of crap doesn't go on in the private sector.

The Institute for Justice, the conservative crew that bankrolled the court challenge to Clean Elections, is now off to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. Lotsa luck, fellas.

In the meantime, opponents of Clean Elections also want to run an initiative campaign to do away with the program two years from now.


WHERE THE MONEY IS: With candidates on welfare, the big money story is with the propositions. The gambling props had already broken campaign spending records with the reports filed back in August, but the tab has climbed to astronomical levels since then.

Arizonans for Fair Gaming and Indian Self-Reliance, the 17-tribe alliance pushing Prop 202, reported spending $12.2 million of the $18.8 million collected for the campaign. The other Native American group, Yes for Arizona, had spent more than $9.5 million of the $9.7 million they've poured into the initiative.

The dog and horse racing industry, under the guise of the Coalition for Arizona, had spent $3.4 of the $3.5 million they'd raised on those Joe Arizona commercials supporting Prop 201, which would allow slot machines at the tracks as well as on the reservation.

Guess the real jackpot went to the political consultants this year.

Meanwhile, The People Have Spoken, the political committee challenging The Powers That Be in the drug war, have spent about $1.1 million for Prop 203, the latest marijuana decriminalization measure. Drug Czar John Walters rolled through the state last week calling the campaign "despicable"--which is kinda how some folks view the federal government's raids on California cannibus clubs that offer dope to the sick and suffering. Prop 203 has some pretty wacky elements, including a proposal to force the Arizona Department of Public Safety to hand out weed to sick folks. We don't see the feds allowing that to happen even if the people support this reeferendum on War on Drugs.

The other interesting campaign is for Prop 303, which will crank taxes on tobacco to raise money for healthcare programs, including trauma care and insurance coverage for low-income Arizonans. Arizonans for a Healthy Future have raised a million bucks and spent all but $150,000.

They may not have had to dump all that dough into the race, since there's no organized opposition to Prop 303. We hear the cigarette companies came to Arizona, ran a couple of focus groups, and realized this one was going to pass no matter what, so they decided not to waste any money opposing the prop.


RETURN TO AMPHI: Following a thorough housecleaning that saw the last of the old guard swept out in a recall election two years ago, the Amphi School District has settled down considerably. With new Superintendent Vicki Balentine and a new governing board, Amphi has stopped the insider-trading shenanigans that marked the old regime and begun concentrating on boring stuff like curriculum and straightening out the mess they inherited.

Now two members of the reform board, Ken Smith and Mary Schuh, have decided they've done their time and want to call it quits. They're supporting two other candidates, Doug Reed and Patricia Clymer.

Reed, who has served on the Strategic Planning and Site Based Management Council at Wilson K-8, is the director of the University of Arizona's College of Agriculture and Life Science's Race Track Industry Program.

A former full-time teacher, Clymer now serves as president of the Harleson Parent-Teacher Organization and volunteers her time at Prince Elementary.

The two candidates have also grabbed endorsements from the Amphi Education Association.

The third candidate in the race is Jeff Grant, who's making his second run for the board after losing a race two years ago. Grant has tight ties to the old guard that was tossed out by voters; he chaired the campaign for onetime board president Mike Bernal, who was booted in favor of Smith.

In his last campaign, Grant, human resources director for the town of Oro Valley, tapped OV's development community, picking up at least two grand of his $7,249 from people associated with Vistoso Partners, the real-estate cartel that rules Rancho Vistoso. Other funding came from staunch supporters of the old guard.

Why does Rancho Vistoso care who serves on the Amphi School Board? Maybe it has something to do with the developer's ongoing squabble with Amphi over a long-ignored promise to provide some land for schools to serve their bloated stucco village.

Whatever the motivation, electing Grant to the Amphi School Board would be a step back from a district that's come out of the dark ages.


GROSCOST'S GHOST: Is former House Speaker Jeff Groscost, the East Valley architect of the alt-fuels scandal, reaching out from his political grave to engineer vengeance against moderate Republicans? One of the juicier conspiracy theories we've heard in the wake of the primary has Groscost, who lost his state Senate race two years ago after the alt-fuel bill topped $100 million, working behind the scenes with conservative groups like the Center for Arizona Policy to target moderate Republican candidates such as Roberta Voss with last-minute push polls. Anybody know the number of a good exorcist?


AUTHOR, AUTHOR: Two of our local authors have had additional national recognition beyond the book review sections. First, on last season's Sopranos, Tony's wife Carmela touted novelist Barbara Kingsolver. More recently, First Lady Laura Bush told the Washington Post during the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., that she was reading the mystery novels of Sinclair Browning.

We won't say which endorsement we consider the most respectable, but we congratulate two fine Arizona writers, both of whom the Tucson Weekly has been cheering on for years.


CORRECTION, STAT: Former state lawmaker Herschella Horton is a registered nurse in the employ of Canyon Ranch Health Resort, not a teacher, as reported in last week's Skinny.

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