The Skinny

GREEN SWEEP: The morning daily recently expressed its great love for the two-party system on the editorial page, opining: We believe in the two-party system. Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan can crow, scratch and whine all they want about tweedledum and tweedledee, but it's pretty much just a bunch of hooey to us.

Yes, any idea outside the mainstream, poll-tested gruel is certainly just a bunch of hooey, particularly compared to the deep insights Americans have been treated to during the recent presidential debates.

The Star editors took their two-party love affair a step further in this election season with a policy that barred third-party candidates from its endorsement interviews. When Green Party Chair Carolyn Campbell called to find out why they hadn't invited Mary "Katie" Bolger, a Green candidate for the state House of Representatives in District 14, she was told that the Star had no interest in third-party candidates.

It's particularly ironic given that the Star had endorsed Campbell when she ran for the state House as a Green in District 11. In fact, the Star endorsed her ahead of one of the Democrats in the race, Elaine Richardson. Richardson has gone on to a career in the state Senate, while Campbell is now state chair of the Arizona Greens.

The Tucson Citizen, meanwhile, is not only inviting Greens, but even endorsed one, Jack Strasburg, in the District 10 House race. At least the afternoon daily is willing to listen to new ideas.

ECONOMIC GROWTH: The fundraising thermometer just keeps rising at Arizonans for Responsible Planning, the developer-driven political committee that's opposing Prop 202, the often vilified Citizens Growth Management Initiative. According to the most recent campaign finance reports filed by the group, it has surpassed its goal of raising $3.5 million. As of October 2, the total stood at $3,586,063. Add to that the $373,222 that's been reported in contributions of $10,000 or more since the end of the reporting period and you have a campaign that has raised more than $3.9 million. As of October 2, the committee had spent $2,735,628 on that slick campaign of mailers and television and radio ads distorting the actual effects of the initiative.

That's not the only group battling the CGMI. The Arizona Rock Products Association--which has the distinction of being the biggest contributor to Arizonans for Responsible Planning, having poured more than $400,000 into the effort--has formed a separate political committee to campaign against the initiative. While its total fundraising figures aren't yet available online, it has raised at least $135,000.

Even with more than $4 million, the growth gang hungers for more. The National Association of Home Builders recently sent out a fundraising letter to developers across the U.S., asking for contributions to "keep housing off the endangered species list." According to the letter, "The NAHB has established a 'Housing Defense Fund' to fight the no-growthers."

Brace yourself for more dire predictions and phony claims.

HEALTHY BALANCES: We've got two competing health care initiatives on the November ballot. Both would use funds from the state's tobacco settlement to provide health care for low-income Arizonans.

Prop 200, also known as Healthy Children, Healthy Families, would provide health care to parents of children who qualify for the state's Kidscare program. If you don't have a kid, however, you're out of luck.

Prop 204, the Healthy Arizona 2 initiative, would extend health care coverage to low-income Arizonans regardless of whether they've bred.

With the support of most of the hospitals across the state, Prop 200 has been much more successful in raising funds. The group has raised $1,212,046 and spent $1,190,924, leaving $21,122.

Prop 204's backers have raised considerably less. The committee received $460,033 in contributions and spent $448,274, leaving $11,759 in the bank.

BILINGUAL BATTLE: Three different political committees have formed to oppose Prop 203, which would ban bilingual education in Arizona schools.

Prop 203 has been backed by English for the Children-AZ, a political committee that has reported raising $174,783 for its campaign. Virtually all of the money--some $170,019.--has come straight from English for the Children-CA, a political committee created by California entrepreneur Ron Unz to pass a similar--but less restrictive--ban on bilingual ed in California in 1998.

Now Unz's Arizona campaign is facing organized opposition. One group, English Plus More, reports raising $53,479, including $10,000 from the Arizona Association of Bilingual Education and $30,000 from the Arizona School Boards Association. A second organization, No on 203-2000, just registered on October 3 and reports receiving $30,000 from the National Education Association in Washington, D.C. (The NEA has also contributed $320,000 to the Yes on 301-2000 committee, which is supporting the proposition for a six-tenths of a cent increase in the sales tax targeted for education.).And a third group, Arizona Citizens Opposed to Prop 203, has received $50,000 from Greater Phoenix Leadership and $50,000 from the Salt River, Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

ELEPHANT STAMPEDE: Prop 106 would strip lawmakers of the power to draw boundaries for legislative and congressional districts. Instead, a five-member committee appointed by lawmakers from nominees selected by the Committee on Judicial Appointments would be assigned the task of creating the boundaries.

Given the lopsided nature of most districts, it's easy to convince voters that the current system is self-serving for lawmakers. Since Democrats tend to come out on the short end of redistricting, most of them are supporting the initiative. Republicans, as you might expect, are opposing it. They've recently set up a political committee to run a hard opposition campaign, with funding coming from out-of-state GOP organizations. The Nevada Republican Party has kicked in $60,000, while the Republican National Party has contributed $75,000.

NO WONDER THEY WANT TO INCREASE OUR PHONE RATES: Az for Consumer Choice & Fair Competition, the wholly owned political committee of Qwest (the lousy phone company formerly known as U S West), had spent $1,951,029 of the $2,029,708 poured into the campaign by the phone company as of October 2.

The company is pushing a change in the Arizona Constitution that would ease its current regulation by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Given U S West's awful record for service, we think this is a rotten idea.

So do two of Qwest's competitors, Cox Communications and AT&T, who have teamed up to provide $873,312 in large contributions to run an opposition campaign.

However this one plays out, we've got the feeling that customers will be picking up the bill.

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