Ballot Bucks

Proposition Players Raise Millions Of Dollars.

BUYING CONTROL OF public policy sure ain't cheap these days.

The various interest groups pushing and opposing measures on November's ballot have already raised more than $4.1 million in contributions--and they're just getting warmed up.

Although the next finance report isn't due until August 31, campaign committees must report contributions greater than $10,000 immediately to the Arizona Secretary of State's office. Those reports are rolling in.

Take the contentious Citizens Growth Management Initiative, which would sharply curtail development outside of urban growth boundaries and force developers to pay steep impact fees. Last year, Gov. Jane Dee Hull warned that polls showed anywhere from 70 to 75 percent of the voters in Pima, Maricopa and Coconino counties support restricting growth; to defeat the initiative, a political campaign will need to move roughly 25 percent of the electorate to the other side. The Growth Lobby plans to do that by demonizing the initiative by claiming that passage would torpedo the state's economy.

To handle the negative campaign, a political committee, Arizonans for Responsible Planning, has been formed under the aegis of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, which contributed $5,242 in staff time and office space.

The group is hoping to raise at least $3.5 million to defeat the initiative. It's well on its way to that goal. Since June 9, the Arizonans for Responsible Planning has raised more than $430,000, including contributions from--take a deep breath--the Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona ($50,000), Knipp Brothers Industries ($12,000), Standard Pacific of Arizona ($16,000), Keith Riggs Plumbing ($10,914), Arizona Land Investors, Inc. ($10,000), Diversified Roofing Corporation ($14,000), Engle Homes/Arizona, Inc. ($15,000), Arizona Rock Products Association ($55,000), Chas Roberts Air Conditioning ($40,000), Del Webb Corporation ($50,000), Continental Homes, Inc. ($36,200), Monterey Homes/Meritage Corp. ($25,000), Richmond America ($25,000), Bebout Concrete ($10,000), Natham & Associates ($11,000), Schuck and Sons Construction ($15,000) and Fulton Home Sales Corporation ($35,000).

By comparison, the Citizens for Growth Management had raised $175,661 by May 31. The group's biggest backer is the Sierra Club, which has tossed in big chunks totaling $95,700. While the group can't hope to match the opposition dollar for dollar, it has the advantage of starting out with a big lead. The challenge will be to hang onto that lead until the whistle blows on Election Day.

U S West is the single largest spender in the proposition sweepstakes, having contributed $1.3 million--along with in-kind services worth $16,741--to its wholly-owned subsidiary, Arizonans for Consumer Choice and Fair Competition. U S West is seeking a change in the state constitution that would allow them to avoid having rate increases approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The Arizona Taxpayer Alliance, which seeks to eliminate the state income tax, had raised $194,774 as of May 31. The group has picked up an additional $150,000 in contributions of $10,000 or more since the end of the reporting period. Contributors include Houston businessmen Robert McNair ($25,000), Jack Trotter ($25,000) and Gordon Cain ($25,000) and the Houston-based Enron Corporation ($10,000). The Texas contributors have been sponsors of the political group Americans for Fair Taxation, which has spent millions of dollars in a campaign to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and replace the national income tax with a 30 percent national sales tax.

Meanwhile, Arizonans Against Unfair Tax Schemes, which is opposing the initiative, had raised $51,832 by May 31, including $30,000 from two contributions: $20,000 from the Phoenix Firefighters Association and $10,000 from the AEA Education Improvement Fund.

The backers of Fair Districts, Fair Elections, an initiative that would take redistricting power from state legislators and put it in the hands of an independent committee, have raised $275,072 and spent $248,168. The largest contributions have come from Phoenix developer Jim Pederson, who had kicked in more than $260,000 to the effort through June 26.

There are two healthcare initiatives on the November ballot. Both will use money from the state's tobacco settlement to extend health insurance to low-income Arizonans, but one has a much larger war chest.

The backers of the Healthy Children, Healthy Families initiative had raised $841,063 by May 31. The effort enjoys the support of many healthcare institutions, including Banner Health Arizona ($50,000), Phoenix Children's Hospital ($20,000), Yuma Regional Medical Center ($20,000), Northern Arizona Healthcare ($20,000), TMC Healthcare ($25,000), Scottsdale Healthcare ($30,000) and Mayo Clinic Arizona ($25,000).

In comparison, the Healthy Arizona 2 had raised only $144,890 as of May 31, including $50,000 from El Rio Neighborhood Health Center. El Rio contributed an additional $45,000 on June 6.

Arizonans for Wildlife Conservation is backing Prop 102, which would force ballot propositions that involve wildlife to pass by a two-thirds margin. The group, which has raised $457,110, got quite a bargain during the last legislative session: By lobbying the state legislature, they persuaded lawmakers to put their proposal on the ballot, which saved them the expense of gathering signatures.

English for the Children-AZ, a group that is pushing an initiative that would end bilingual education in Arizona, has raised $105,852. All but $250 of that has come from a group called English for the Children-CA, the political committee that passed a similar initiative in California.

The worst investment so far was on behalf of The People Have Spoken, the group that ran the successful campaign for the medical marijuana initiative in 1998. The group had hoped to further the medical marijuana cause by creating a distribution system for medical marijuana overseen by the state attorney general, decreasing penalties for non-violent drug offenders and rerouting forfeiture funds from law enforcement to drug treatment. As of May 31, backers had raised $646,770 (including $155,000 each from financier/philanthropist George Soros and University of Phoenix founder John Sperling) and spent $498,391 on signature gathering and other campaign activity. However, before the July 6 deadline for the submission of petitions, the group abandoned the effort because they became nervous about some of the language in the initiative.

The torch was picked up by W. Michael Walz, a Phoenix attorney specializing in marijuana-related cases. His political committee, Plants Are Medicine, reported no fundraising activity before May 31.

Earlier this month, the Secretary of State expressed concerns that the signatures for the Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act of 2000 would be insufficient to make the ballot. A closer signature count is underway.

An opposition group, Keep Our Kids Off Drugs, has received a $10,000 contribution from the Phoenix Suns basketball team.

For complete campaign finance reports, visit the Arizona Secretary of State website at
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