All It Takes To Grab A Pima County Supervisor's Ear Is A Little Lettuce.
DEMOCRATIC PIMA COUNTY Supervisor Raul Grijalva knew exactly what he had to do when he received a campaign contribution from a Phoenix land developer who had a project before the board: give it back.
"I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, but in good conscience I must enclose a campaign check for $100 to equal your financial contribution," Grijalva wrote in a July 20, 1992, letter to Ron Ober, with the check enclosed.
Grijalva said it is "inappropriate" to take money from developers who have a project to be decided by the board. He said he was just "being consistent."
"(Ober) had some planning deal coming up at the same time. We had to take a vote," he said. "I didn't like the appearance, so I sent it back."
Such campaign policies are rare among the Pima County supervisors, who together have taken in at least $121,000 since 1992 from people who stand to earn money from their development decisions.
The $121,000 figure is conservative. It leaves out such contributors as attorneys, many of whom appear before the board representing developers, "investors," car dealers and others. And it only includes contributions of more than $100.
Since 1993, the supervisors have approved almost 90 percent--or 43 of 48--of the development projects larger than 10 acres that have come before them.
And most supervisors had no problem taking money from the people who stand to gain from those decisions.
"If someone wants to give me a check, I'll take it," Democrat Dan Eckstrom said. "That's for sure. And I'm not going to spend a lot of time questioning and wondering why they gave it to me."
More than 45 percent--or $22,800--of former-Republican-turned-independent Ed Moore's campaign contributions came from people who earn their living as developers, investors, Realtors, planners or development engineers, or as the spouse of someone in one of those professions. Moore, who worked as a developer before being elected to the board in 1984, voted against only one project, approving 98 percent of the projects he voted on, the highest percentage of any supervisor.
Republican Board Chairman Paul Marsh voted to approve 94 percent of the major projects, saying he wants to "let folks build what they want on their own property, within reason." He received at least $40,610, the most of any supervisor, from people with pro-development interests.
Both Republican J. Michael Boyd, who approved 93 percent, and Eckstrom, who approved 85 percent, took in $19,370 and $30,020 from pro-business contributors. Next to Marsh, Eckstrom took in the highest percentage of his contributions--42 percent--from developers.
Even Grijalva, who admitted he is often called "self righteous" by developers because of his anti-growth stances, voted to approve 65 percent of the development projects, and has taken in almost $8,000 from developers.
Despite the high approval factor, supervisors noted that many of the projects had been modified by the Planning and Zoning Commission and later by the board to minimize the impact.
Each supervisor denied developers are able to buy anything with their open wallets.
"If developers think they can buy my vote, they can send their money elsewhere," Marsh said.
Eckstrom said people who actually think giving the maximum $270 contribution "can buy something should get their head examined. If they do think that, then they aren't very smart: they must be smoking something."
Boyd said he "doesn't solicit contributions from builders," and "has never promised a vote to anyone." But, he said, he appreciates their support.
Marsh has taken in more than $8,430 from contributors involved in development projects that were decided by the board since 1992.
Eckstrom also received $6,620 from people involved in 15 projects. Contributors with 15 projects coming up before the board also gave to Moore, while Boyd received money from people involved in 10 cases, and Grijalva only one.
While the supervisors insist contributors bought neither their vote nor their special attention, political experts say there is definitely something money can buy--access.
While no single contribution will convince a board member to approve a certain project, that single contribution will likely buy a little more accessibility, said Mike Evans, executive director of Arizona Common Cause, a Phoenix-based watchdog group.
"Any elected officials will tell you a campaign contribution doesn't get their attention or their vote," he said. "It does get their attention. It's a pat on the back and an 'atta-boy' from the people contributing."
Former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy, a Democrat and now a University of Arizona political scientist, agreed. "In every place I have ever known, a significant sum of money is given by people so they can have access to the elected officials. People give money because they expect to do business with the Board of Supervisors and believe they will have access that would otherwise not be possible."
AT LEAST TWO developers admit that buying access was exactly what they were trying to do. Dozens of other contributors refused to accept or return telephone calls, while several abruptly hung up when asked about their contributions.
"There is nobody so low of character that a couple hundred dollars is going to make them vote one way or another," said James Portner, an engineer at Rick Engineering, who gave money to Eckstrom, Marsh and Boyd. "Those of us who contribute through conventional means don't buy influence. I contribute because I need a chance to get an audience with them and get an audience when I need it.
"The advantage is in terms of getting my 15-minute interview to ensure that the information before the board is correct," he said. "When you make a phone call, you usually get it returned."
Richard B. Price, of R.B. Price and Co., Inc., who contributed to Boyd and Eckstrom, said he "never perceived (he) was buying a vote."
"In reality, business people don't part with their money unless there's an underlying reason to do it," Price said. "When you put your entire life in a business, you want some control of what the government is doing. It's name recognition. If you get a phone message from someone you don't know, you don't call them back.
"If you have a problem with the bureaucracy of county government, there's no faster way to speed up the government and say, now listen...," he said.
Three of the four projects involving Rick Engineering, which together include building more than 200 homes, were approved by the board--with only Grijalva dissenting in one, and Boyd absent for another. A proposal to build 72 homes on 72 acres at Prince and Houghton roads was denied.
Likewise, R.B. Price and Co.'s project to build 36 homes on Snyder Road was approved unanimously by the board, with Boyd absent.
Although Grijalva said he "tries not to accept donations under such circumstances," he did accept money from one developer with an issue before the board, because he knew the family. Mamie Kai, Herbert Kai and John Kai Jr., land owners in Marana, gave him $720, and gave at least as much to each of the other supervisors.
But Mamie Kai said she never tried to buy influence. "I'm in the community a lot, so I like to help everyone out," she said. "I know them all already. I don't need to buy votes. We just try to give to people who help the community."
Her family's proposal to build 73 homes near Silverbell Road and Sunset Drive was unanimously approved by the board.
Just how much access each contribution can buy varies among the supervisors. Eckstrom said once a proposal comes from the Planning and Zoning Commission to be decided by the board, "I cease meeting with either side," contributors or not. "I'm pretty religious about that," he said. "I'll make my judgment based on the public hearing. That works for me. And I talk to everybody. Giving me money doesn't buy any more access. I answer all my phone calls."
Marsh said he tries to meet with land owner-contributors as well as the neighborhood associations to get as much information as possible so he can be well-informed before the public hearing.
Moore said that while he does listen a little closer to those who support him, if he doesn't think their project will benefit Pima County, he has no problem voting to deny it.
All supervisors agreed they would vote against any proposal, no matter who is involved, unless certain legal and practical conditions are met.
Even though many are also contributors, it is because certain developers, like Donald Diamond, are able to meet technical standards every time that the board is almost forced to approve their projects, the supervisors said. Diamond has given to Eckstrom, Marsh, Moore and Boyd since 1992.
"Zoning is created by law," Moore said. "It is based on strict procedures that should be followed, not a popularity contest. But Donald Diamond has a state-of-the-art company. It is hard to vote something down that they propose because technically they meet all the requirements. They dot their I's and cross their T's."
Many contributors agree with the supervisors that nothing--even access--can be earned through campaign contributions, but they each still find reasons to keep writing checks.
"There are some candidates who pay attention to who makes contributions," said Michael Grassinger, co-owner of the Planning Center, who, with other members of his company, contributed more than $1,000 each to Eckstrom, Moore and Marsh. "I don't contribute for that purpose. For me, it's personal. If someone will do good for the community and represent my business interests, then we'll make a contribution."
Other developers, like Portner, said they chose to give money to Boyd, Marsh and Eckstrom "because they are willing to listen to reason. If they were people who were dead set on their opinions, then no way would I contribute to them."
Boyd, who insisted he is "not a pawn for home-builders," said he pledged to the Marana School District that he would not approve rezoning in their area until the district passes a bond to keep up with the growth in the area. He said he will vote against projects in areas where roads haven't kept up with the growth.
"When Mike takes a position he sticks with it," Price said. "He doesn't waffle." Price and Portner said they contributed to Boyd because he has done a good job standing up to both "anti-growth" neighborhood associations and developers, and trying to find a balance between the interests of the county government, the community and local businesses.
"He tries to juggle all three, which is not any easy job," Portner said. (He looks at) the entire spectrum rather than one at the expense of the other."
Dislike for Moore's 1992 opponent, Democrat John Kromko, especially among people with development interests, was the key to many of Moore's $63,000 in contributions.
"I contributed to Moore because he's pro-business and more reasonable (than Kromko)," said Rene Redoudo, of Granite Construction, who gave Moore $200.
David Powell of Filter Products contributed to Moore simply "because he was running against Kromko," as did Bob Mueller, president of Mueller and Associates.
"During his last campaign, I did not like who he was running against," said Mueller, who also contributed to Moore because both were members of Sigma Chi, a college fraternity. "His opponent would not have made a good supervisor, so naturally I contributed to Moore."
MOORE, WHOSE DISTRICT sits in the middle of the fast-growing northwest side, and who previously has taken in thousands of dollars from developers, said he's worried about raising enough money for a re-election campaign. He recently decided to forsake his Republican status and run as an independent, apparently to avoid a costly primary battle.
"This election year I'm being targeted by all the developers because of the northwest side issues not being resolved until the road development (there) is solved," he said.
Volgy said that if any supervisor faces "a tough opponent, the difference between a lot of money and a little money may mean the difference between winning and losing."
That's why Eckstrom, who ran unopposed in 1992 and faces only token opposition by Republican Ray Clark in next November's election, has put together such a large warchest.
"I like to raise money and I am a good fund raiser," Eckstrom said. "I believe a good offense is a good defense. If someone wants to take me on, I want to make a good go at it. I prepare early to take on the meanest person out there and I don't just wait and see if that person shows up for the race."
For Grijalva the warning is all too clear: He's worried his policy of not taking money from people whose development issues must be decided by the board could cause him to lose the next election, when he faces political newcomer Susan Chambers Casteloes in the September 10 Democratic primary.
About 40 percent of Grijalva's funds came from small donations of less than $100, and mostly from teachers and school administrators who remember his work on the Tucson Unified School District board.
"They're small donations and they are good donations," he said. "There's a kind of sincerity about it. It's a good motivator. But you have to work harder to get enough for a campaign. Ours becomes a quantity issue."
Raising funds becomes even more difficult each year as his reputation precedes him, he said.
"Historically, all decisions the Board of Supervisors has made are land-owner decisions," he said. "Land owners and developers have owned the campaign. And historically, land owners get their projects approved. And I haven't been responsive to them politically."
Despite what he considered to be popular policies and a strong voting record, Grijalva said he believed enough good campaigning could win away his seat on the board. "With the right amount of money, they're formidable," he said. "You have to take them seriously.
"They can do more than you can. They can mail better, they can call better.
"Everyone is defeatable. After awhile it is not the candidate, it's whoever is backing them."
A Brief Look At The Supes' Latest Financial Reports.
By Jim Nintzel
AS THE ACCOMPANYING story shows, fundraising is one of the most delicate and vital functions of a pol's life. Here's where things now stand for the incumbent supes and their challengers this election year, based on recently filed reports that document campaign activity through May 30.
In District 3, incumbent Ed Moore decided to run as an independent rather than face competition in the GOP primary. But when the financial reports were due on June 1, Moore turned in two statements--one as a Republican and one as an independent.
Moore's GOP campaign--even though, we remind you, he's not running as a Republican--has raised $2,810. He's spent $708, leaving him with $2,102.
His independent campaign, however, shows Moore in debt. He claims to have started out nearly $900 in the hole, raised $71,870, spent $72,000 and ended up $1,033 in the red. It's no wonder former state Rep. John Kromko, whom Moore defeated in the 1992 supes race, filed a complaint about Moore's campaign finance reports last year. The only person who can possibly make sense of them is the attorney who cleared Moore of any wrongdoing.
With such anemic fundraising, it's not surprising Moore opted to leave the big Republican tent to go the independent route. Many of Moore's former supporters in the development and construction industries, livid over Moore's support of the anti-CAP Prop 200 passed by Tucson voters last year, have placed their bets on a new horse in the race, Tucson real estate agent Vicki Cox-Golder.
Cox-Golder has amassed one of the largest campaign war chests among the supe candidates, collecting $38,850, including $5,000 she loaned her own campaign. She's spent $22,000, with a big chunk going to political consultant Bunny Badescher, leaving Cox-Golder with $16,915.
Accountant Ann Holden, who is now Cox-Golder's only opponent in the GOP primary, has found fundraising to be much more difficult. She's only managed to raise $1,700, including $1,200 she herself lent the campaign. Having spent $1,243, she was left with only $457 at the end of May.
The Democrat in the District 3 race, Sharon Bronson, was lucky enough to avoid a primary fight, so she concentrated on raising money to win the general election. So far, she's collected about $25,000, including $500 she lent her campaign. She's been more frugal than Cox-Golder, spending less than $6,000. At the end of May, she still had nearly $15,000 in the bank. Bronson, who has long been active in local politics, raised most of her money from environmentalists and other political activists and elected officials.
Also joining the tussle in District 3 is Marsha Mendelsohn, an artist and real estate agent who is running as an independent. Mendelsohn reported no contributions but said she had loaned her campaign $1,001.52. A purchase of bumper stickers and some voter lists left her with $693 in the bank.
Over in the northwestern District 1, which runs up through the Catalina foothills and into Oro Valley, Republican Mike Boyd has raised $46,598 and has $26,255 left on hand. Boyd faces a challenge in the GOP primary from Sally Slosser, a former nurse who has received $21,200 in contributions, including nearly $1,700 she loaned her own campaign.
In comparison, the three Democrats in the District 1 race have had hapless fundraising efforts. Winston Smith has collected the most, $2,629. Smith had $1,350 remaining as of May 31. According to his quaint handwritten report, Gen Xer Chris Jones, a Pima Community College student making his first stab at office, has raised $1,930, including an $819 loan from himself. He had $131 remaining in his account by the end of May. And Wayne Bryant's war chest seemed more like a shoe box--he's raised $560 and spent $181, leaving him with a grand total of $379.
Over in southside District 5, incumbent Raul Grijalva is facing a challenge in the Democratic primary from Susan Chambers Casteloes. The threat from Casteloes has forced Grijalva to hold a few fundraisers, which has allowed him to collect about $28,000. He's spent about half of that.
Casteloes, who switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party on May 31 as she prepared to enter the race in this heavily Democratic district, says she's raised less than $250 so far. But with the development community eager to topple Grijalva, you can bet she'll be successful in raising plenty of money between now and the September 10 primary.
In northeastern District 4, the developers are backing both GOP candidates. Incumbent Paul Marsh has collected a massive $63,700, including $2,155 he lent his campaign. Marsh, who once said there ought to be law against collecting contributions unless it was an election year, has nonetheless swallowed his pride and accepted most of his contributions from the real estate and construction industry. Most of the usual suspects turn up on Marsh's list, with checks for $250 or more coming from real estate and construction heavy hitters like Bill Estes, Chris Scheafe, Stan Abrams and Alan Lurie.
Marsh's opponent in the GOP primary, John Even, also boasts some considerable fundraising muscle. Even has pulled in nearly $49,000, mostly in large donations from car dealers, attorneys, bankers and the real estate crowd. A retired lawyer who now sits on the Board of Governors at Pima Community College, Even has already spent about $15,000, leaving him with $30,500.
Both Democrat Craig Runyon and Libertarian Ted Glenn, who will also be on the ballot in the November general election, report raising less than $250. With no money in an overwhelmingly GOP district, neither candidate stands much of a chance.
District 2 Supervisor Dan Eckstrom has raised the most cash, $68,162. He's spent about $15,900, leaving him with $52,262 at the end of May. Between his district's solid Democratic demographics and his staggering financial advantage--GOP challenger Ray Clark reports collecting less than $250--Eckstrom is the one board member who sleep soundly between now and November 5.
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