Negative Balance

A Gang Of Walkup Supporters Spent $50,000 On Attack Ads Targeting Democrat Molly McKasson.

AS NEWLY ELECTED Mayor Bob Walkup took the oath of office earlier this week, his most generous supporters came out of the shadows with the filing of the final campaign finance reports of the election cycle.

Despite a Republican registration disadvantage -- only 65,053 of Tucson's 205,921 voters are registered with the GOP, while there are 103,706 Democrats -- Walkup handily defeated Democrat Molly McKasson in the November 2 general election, capturing 53 percent of the vote to her 39 percent.

Both candidates participated in the city's public financing program, which provided candidates with a dollar-for-dollar match for every contribution, provided they agreed to limit their spending to $154,684. Both campaigns raised and spent the maximum, but it was hardly a level playing field.

Walkup was aided by a "soft money" campaign run by Tucsonans for Responsible Leadership, an independent campaign committee that targeted McKasson with a series of negative advertisements. Organized by local Democrats Steve Emerine and Judy Abrams (who also contributed $2,200 to the effort), the group raised $51,950 and spent $50,185, according to campaign finance reports filed with the City Clerk's Office last week. The filing contradicts Emerine's comments to the press earlier this year, in which he estimated the campaign raised only $30,000.

Emerine and Abrams assured they wouldn't have to reveal their financial backers before voters went to the ballot by not collecting checks until after October 13, the end of the last reporting period before Election Day. Unlike individual contributions to candidates, which are limited to $320, contributions to independent campaign committees have no ceiling -- and many of the contributors to Tucsonans for Responsible Leadership generously opened up their checkbooks. The list of contributors reads like a Who's Who of local bigwigs: the second name on the list is legendary land speculator Don Diamond, who kicked in $1,000. The third name is his wife, Joan Diamond, who contributed $2,000. Jim Click Sr., Jim Click Jr. and Margaret Click gave a combined $4,700.

Additional contributors include downtown hotelier Bert Lopez (1,500), homebuilder Bill Estes ($2,000), development attorney Don Pitt ($1,000), Broadway Realty and Trust broker Joe Cesare ($1,000), El Con Mall co-owners Michael and Barbara Papanikolas (a combined $2,000), homebuilder Peter Aronoff ($1,000), developer Chris Sheafe ($500) and Tucson Realty and Trust broker Hank Amos ($300).

Four attorneys from the firm Lewis and Roca (Si Schorr, Lewis Schorr, Andrew Schorr and Frank Bangs) contributed a combined $1,025. Attorney Robert Gugino, who is representing El Con in its ongoing battle with the city over big-box stores, gave $150.

Political action committees also contributed to the independent campaign. The Southern Arizona Home Builders Association gave $2,000, law firm Streich Lang's PAC contributed $1,000 and an organization called El PAC in Phoenix kicked in $3,000. Bank One's PAC was good for $500 and the Chamber of Commerce shelled out $250.

Kaneen Advertising, which has a lucrative contract handling Tucson Water's PR needs, generously provided $2,500 in in-kind services, acting as an agency for the independent committee.

WHILE THE NEGATIVE ads contributed to McKasson's 14-point loss, her campaign was largely sunk by Prop 200, which would have extended the Water Consumer Protection Act passed by voters in 1995. McKasson's numbers mirror the voters' solid rejection of the initiative, which went down 62 to 38 percent.

Prop 200 was backed primarily by car dealer Bob Beaudry, who contributed the lion's share of the $323,536 raised by the Citizens' Alliance For Water Security. The group spent $317,265 on its defeated campaign.

The Coalition for an Adequate Water Supply, which opposed the initiative, raised $884,070 and spent $656,280 on an advertising blitz that included television, radio, mailings and phone banks. The campaign dollars were funneled primarily through two public relation firms, Nordensson Lynn and Zimmerman and Associates.

Contributors included mega-developer Diamond Ventures ($25,000); Holmes Tuttle Ford ($25,000); billboard magnate Karl Eller ($25,000); New World Homes ($25,000); Pulte Home Corporation ($25,000); Cottonwood Properties, Inc., ($25,000); Bank One ($25,000); Norwest Bank Arizona ($25,000); Bank of America ($25,000); Kaufman and Broad Homebuilders ($25,000); The Sunot Companies, Inc.($25,000); U.S. Homes ($25,000); Compass Bank ($25,000); Shamrock Foods Company ($25,000); Fairfield Green Valley ($20,000); the Ashton Company ($15,000); Southwest Gas ($12,500); Canoa Development, Inc. ($10,000); Baird Homes ($10,000); Royal Automotive ($10,000); KE&G Development Inc. ($10,000); Monterey Homes ($10,000); car dealer Tom Quebedeaux ($10,000); and America West Airlines ($5,000).

ON ANOTHER BALLOT front, Consumers for Retail Choice, which collected signatures to force a referendum on the City Council's recent ordinance restricting big-box stores, filed its first campaign finance report. The consumers, in this case, turn out to be more of a consumee. The group has received exactly two contributions: $24,750 on October 19 from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and $50 on October 28 from -- you guessed it -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., both of Bentonville, Arkansas. The group paid $33,529.50 to political consultant Mike Crusa's Summit Group and ended the reporting period $8,779.50 in debt. Consumers for Retail Choice is currently in a legal battle with the city, which has rejected the referendum petitions on technical grounds. A court hearing is expected early next year.