The Skinny

CHECKBOOK JOURNALISM: On the off chance that somebody cares, the final campaign finance tallies are in from the Pima County Board of Supervisor races.

In District 1, where Republican Ann Day defeated Democrat Byron Howard by 20 points, pundits expected both candidates to break the six-figure threshold. Neither did. Republican Ann Day spent $91,388, while Howard spent $92,447. Day will join the board in January, while Howard has signed on as an aide to Democratic City Councilwoman Shirley Scott.

District 3 incumbent Sharon Bronson was the biggest spender this year, with a campaign that cost $127,486. Bronson defeated Republican Barney Brenner, who came within 1,104 votes of knocking Bronson off. Bronson spent heavily in the final days of the campaign, burning through $68,265 after October 19.

Brenner spent $69,463, with about 46 percent of that--$31,940--coming from his own pocket. Ouch!

In District 5, incumbent Democrat Raúl Grijalva also broke the six-figure mark, spending more than $101,769 on his 33-percentage-point defeat of Republican Rosalie López.

López missed last week's deadline for filing her campaign finance report. It's not the first time López has ignored the law. Her failure to file is particularly ironic when you consider that she criticized Grijalva for being a lawbreaker during the campaign because he had voted with the rest of the board to downzone property near Gates Pass in order to test a state law that forbids downzoning without the property owner's permission.

López complained that Grijalva's action showed he had no respect for the law and promised she would not commit such a crime if she were elected. The way we see it, Grijalva's vote was a way for the county to challenge a state law. You may not agree with the principle, but at least there was a reason behind it. Can López say the same about her inability to follow campaign finance requirements?

BARBECUE PATROL: It seems David "Honest Ag" Aguilar, as he is known to his troops, decided it was time to lighten things up around the sector, so he and his minions organized a grand charity ball.

Imbued by the holiday spirit, invitations to 1,500 agents were sent out in envelopes stamped "INS Cares" and franked at federal expense. Anticipating a huge crowd, organizers limited attendance to the first 800 people who sent in their reservations. As things turned out, limits on the number of reservations were not necessary.

Fewer than 100 agents showed up for the almost-didn't-happen ball at the Doubletree Hotel at Reid Park. The U.S. Border Patrol Charity Ball was a deflating experience.

Many of the agents who played hooky from the charity ball instead got together with friends and had a little backyard barbie. The Skinny hears that the Anti-Ball, as the agents are now calling it, was a simple but grand event--complete with a huge beef roast, hamburgers and beer.

Our spies in the border underground say Ag the Charitable is still fuming over the failure of his October event. To deal with his anger, Ag last week mounted an investigation (again at taxpayer expense, using paid staff) to find out which agents attended the Anti-Ball BBQ.

We know it's the slow time of the season, when many illegal immigrants are going south for the holidays. But doesn't Aguilar have better things to do than investigate his own troops over such a petty matter?

LOSE A RACE, FILE A COMPLAINT: Arizona's new Clean Election program has completed its test run. The program, created by voters in 1998, allows public financing of political campaigns for state offices.

Candidates for the Arizona Legislature can qualify for the public funding by collecting at least 200 $5 contributions from residents of their legislative district. Once qualified, they're eligible for $10,000 in the primary and $15,000 in the general. If their opponents spend more than that, Clean Election candidates are eligible for matching funds up to the three times the normal limit.

The money for the campaigns comes from a surcharge on civil and criminal fines, a fee for lobbyists at the Capitol, and voluntary contributions from taxpayers.

In the general election, 14 of the 41 Clean Election candidates won seats in the legislature. In addition, both Republican candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission, Bill Mundell and Mark Spitzer, won seats as Clean Election candidates.

One of the Clean Election winners was Democrat Jay Blanchard, who pulled off the upset of the year by defeating former Speaker of the House Jeff Groscost in a race for the District 30 Senate race. Groscost, who masterminded Arizona's $200 million alt-fuel debacle, might not have even had an opponent had Blanchard not been eligible for public financing of his campaign.

Clean Election candidates in Southern Arizona didn't fare all that well. Only one Clean Election candidate in the Pima County delegation, Carmine Cardamone, won a seat.

Some of the candidates who didn't win have been sore losers. Take Democrat Ted Downing, who lost a four-way race for two House seats in District 13 to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords and Republican Carol Somers. Because his GOP opponents raised so much money, Downing was eligible for more than $61,000 for his campaign. Admittedly, because his opponents received some of those dollars from the GOP in the final days of the campaign, Downing didn't learn that some of that money was coming to him until he was standing in line at the polls on Election Day. But he was still one of the best financed legislative candidates in the state, with so much money he was able to waste dollars on an amateurish television advertisement that ran during the World Series.

After he lost, Downing filed a complaint against Republican opponents Somers and Jonathan Paton, claiming they had colluded with the state Republican Party to delay a contribution from the GOP until the last days of the campaign in order to thwart Downing's receipt of matching funds.

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission dismissed Downing's complaint against Somers for lack of probable cause a few weeks ago. Earlier this week, the group was scheduled to consider the case against Paton, whose attorney hadn't responded to Downing's complaint before the last commission meeting.

Democrat Mark Osterloh, who helped write the Clean Elections proposition passed by voters in 1998, filed a similar complaint after losing to Republican Toni Hellon. He complained that the GOP waited until the last minute to contribute to Hellon's campaign to limit his access to matching funds. The commission was scheduled make a decision on Hellon's case earlier this week.

Osterloh himself was the target of a complaint by Rep. Steve Huffman, who noticed that Osterloh spent roughly $3,700 of his primary funds on postage that he used in the general election. Huffman charged that the expenditure clearly was not a primary expense.

Osterloh denied any wrongdoing and the commission dismissed the complaint, finding no probable cause to pursue it.

Who says all the legal fun is in Florida these days? Seems there's plenty of opportunity for post-election lawyering right here in Arizona.

SWEET CHARITY: Local gadfly Samuel Winchester Morey will soon be relocating to Cottonwood, so he's giving up the presidency of an organization that's near and dear to his heart: the 100 Club of Southern Arizona.

The 100 Club is a low-profile charitable organization that gives financial aid to the families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty. Since its launch in 1983, the club has disbursed $46,000 in savings bonds, cash payments and educational grants.

Annual dues to join the club start at $100 and are fully tax-deductible. For more information, call Morey at 297-8858.

RACE CARD: The state AIMS test is facing yet another challenge. This time, it's from the William E. Morris Institute for Justice, a recently launched non-profit public interest law firm.

Last week, in a letter to Arizona State Board of Education President Janet Martin, attorney Tom Berning decried disturbing statistics showing that the percentage of minority students who can pass the AIMS test lags significantly behind white students. Legal action is likely if the trends don't change.

Berning, who is litigation director for the institute, points to numbers that show 77 percent of white third-graders can pass the reading test, while roughly 51 percent of black and Hispanic children can. Less than 34 percent of Native American third-graders met standards. White children stay ahead of minority kids by more than 20 percentage points right through the 11th grade, where only 55 percent of white kids are passing, while minority passage rates drop to 33 percent or worse.

The disparities are even worse in the math test. Nearly 60 percent of white third-graders can pass the math test; less than 30 percent of Hispanic third-graders managed to meet standards. That drops to 27 percent for black third-graders and a dismaying 15 percent for Native Americans.

By the 11th grade, only 18 percent of white students can pass the math test. As bad as that is, at least it's in the double digits. Less than 6 percent of Hispanic, black and Native American 11th-graders are making the cut.

"Although the pass rates for all groups are abysmal, the failure rate for Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, and the disparities when contrasted with the results for white students are truly astonishing," wrote Berning, who was forced out of the city attorney post last year. "Even more shocking, however, is the seeming lack of concern or urgency demonstrated by the state legislature, Board of Education or Department of Education in addressing this issue."

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