The Weekly's Guide To Campaign Finance
SOMEBODY ONCE SAID there are three kinds of people in the world.
The first kind--which describes most of us--is the sort of person who couldn't even imagine giving money to a politician.
The second is the sort who would donate a small amount, say, $25 or so.
The third kind of person gives away lots of money--and expects something in return.
"For better or worse, it is a fact of American political life that good looks, good ideas and an impressive resume are not the most important ingredients for political success these days," writes Center for Responsive Politics staffer Larry Matkinson in Follow the Money, a guide to campaign finance reporting. "All too often, money is. Without that most precious of commodities, candidates lack the resources to take their message to the voters. Indeed, candidates without sufficient funds are often seen to lack 'credibility' by the PACs, interest groups and even news organizations who are the modern handicappers of political viability."
Matkinson maintains there are two political campaigns underway when a candidate runs for office: the surface campaign covered in the media, focusing on positions and character, and an invisible campaign to raise money.
This invisible campaign is especially important on the federal level, where hundreds of thousands of dollars--sometimes even millions--are tossed around by both individuals and political action committees. But it also plays a vital role in local elections, where a winning race can cost as little as a few thousand dollars.
With this in mind, we bring you two reports this week. One looks at how candidates in city elections are raising funds, while the second looks at how Arizona's congressmen financed their campaigns last year.
What's In The War Chest?
How The Money Is Moving In This Year's City Elections.
COMPARED TO RUNNING for federal office, city council races are strictly small-time. No PAC donations, no half-million-dollar campaigns here, mostly because local big-money interests don't feel they need to blow that kind of dough on local elections. Lesser factors are the city's campaign finance laws, which are tight enough to make public interest groups like Common Cause happier than Tipper Gore with a mute switch.
Before we get to the good stuff--like who's been pouring money into the mayor's pocket--a quick review of that campaign finance system might be in order.
In Tucson, candidates have a big financial incentive to limit their spending: If they sign a campaign contract with the city, they can receive matching funds once they've collected contributions of at least $10 each from 200 city residents (the threshold is 300 city residents for mayoral candidates). The contract stipulates that candidates must stay within varying spending limits; this year, council candidates can spend $70,353.99 (or 27 cents per registered voter) while mayoral candidates are limited to $140,707.98 (or 54 cents per voter). In order to get matching funds, candidates must provide a list of their contributors.
This system of public financing keeps campaign spending within reasonable limits while at the same time providing an effective way of monitoring who's funding city campaigns.
Take Mayor George Miller's campaign, for example. Miller is facing rebellious Ward 1 Councilman Bruce Wheeler in a tough Democratic primary. Should he survive that, he'll take on Republican Sharon Collins and Libertarian Ed Kahn in November. As of May 31, the end of the most recent reporting period, Miller had already collected $36,547 and applied for matching funds, which means he can pick up another $36,547 from the city anytime he'd like (he has yet to request any checks).
While he has many small donations, Miller's list reads like a who's who of power brokers in the community. Miller has said he would accept a maximum contribution of $200; he hasn't had much trouble finding folks willing to cough up that much, including former City Manager Joel Valdez, land-dealer Joe Cesare and developer Stan Abrams and his wife Judith, who gave $200 each. Other developers on Miller's list include William and Shirley Estes ($200) and David and Bonnie Mehl ($400). It's standard practice for generous supporters to have their spouses toss in donations as well, to help the candidate reach his minimum number of contributors to qualify for matching funds or to skirt the maximum contribution limit, which is $270 this year.
Car dealers are eagerly supporting Miller, who has gotten checks from Dan Breck ($200), Buck O'Rielly ($200), Thomas Quebedeaux ($200), Frank McClure and his wife Mary ($200) and the Click family ($200 each from Jim Sr., Jim Jr., Vicki and Margaret).
Miller has also picked up contributions from his fellow politicos, including Pima County Assessor Rick Lyons ($30), former U.S. Rep. Jim McNulty and his family ($460), state Sen. Ruth Solomon ($25) and state representatives Herschella Horton ($25), Elaine Richardson ($30) and George Cunningham ($80). Cunningham's wife Marjorie kicked in another $50.
Republican activists are also backing Miller, including PCC board member John Even ($100) and Amphi School Board member Vicki Cox Golder ($100), both of whom are considering a run at the county Board of Supervisors on the GOP ticket. Miller also picked up $100 from Ward 1 Republican candidate Ray Fontaine ($100), whose wife Karen gave $50 to Miller's opponent, Bruce Wheeler.
Wheeler needs every dime he can get. With less than four weeks before the September 19 primary, the ambitious councilman is the only candidate in the Mayor's Race who hasn't applied for matching funds--even GOP candidate Sharon Collins and Libertarian Ed Kahn have applied for the public dollars. Wheeler tells The Weekly he plans to apply for matching funds this week.
Wheeler reported raising $8,810 by May 31. The bulk of his contributions have been small amounts, including $20 from former Ward 3 City Councilman Mike Haggerty, $25 from political activist Tres English and $10 from Kristin Smith, a former local TV news reporter Wheeler once dated. His major donations came from his family members (four of whom donated a total of $1,040) and bar owners along Fourth Avenue (a total of $750 from the owners of O'Malley's and The Shanty). Wheeler also received more than $1,000--more than 10 percent of his total--from out-of-state contributors.
With such a thin wallet, Wheeler will have a hard time taking his message to the people before election day. Miller has said he plans to campaign with bulk mailings, newspaper and radio advertisements and even some TV time, which Wheeler will be hard-pressed to counter.
IN Ward 1, where five Hispanic Democrats are battling for the seat Wheeler is vacating to pursue his mayoral bid, 25-year-old Jose Ibarra pulled out to an early lead in the fundraising race. Ibarra, who worked on Miller's 1991 mayoral campaign, as well as races for Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva, gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard and the Clinton-Gore '94 ticket, has assiduously worked his connections to assemble a war chest for his first run for office. He had collected $5,325 by May 31 and loaned the campaign another $1,100. He has yet to apply for matching funds.
Almost all of Ibarra's contributions are in the $10 to $25 range, with some checks coming from other politicos, including Ward 5 Councilman Steve Leal ($50), county supervisors Raul Grijalva ($20) and Dan Eckstrom ($20), former congressman Jim McNulty ($50) and his wife Jacqueline ($50), Pima County Clerk Jim
Corbett ($25) and state Rep. George Cunningham ($10) and his wife Majorie ($10).
Coming in second in the Ward 1 money race is Irma Yepez-Perez, who worked as an aide to Wheeler over the last seven years before retiring to run for the seat. She reported collecting $1,570 in donations. She and her husband had also loaned the campaign $500. Like Ibarra's campaign, most of her donations have been in the $10 to $25 range.
Despite their political experience, the other three candidates in Ward 1 trail in the fundraising race. Former state Sen. Luis Gonzales is the only one who bothered to file a campaign finance statement earlier this year, reporting that he'd raised only $160 in donations. Gonzales also loaned his campaign $750, bringing his total to $910.
The other two candidates, Ruben Romero and Rudy Bejarano, both say they didn't begin raising funds before May 31, so they weren't required to file a report. Both men have held the Ward 1 seat before, Romero from 1971 to 1979 and Bejarano from 1979 to 1987, when Wheeler defeated him in the Democratic primary; but neither seems to prepared to wage a serious campaign this year.
IN Ward 4, where Roger Sedlmayr's retirement will leave an open seat, Democrat Jean Wilkins has dominated the fundraising contest. She has collected $9,745, including a $1,010 loan she gave herself to get the campaign running, and applied for matching funds on August 4.
A lifetime city employee, Wilkins worked 25 years with the police department before moving to city hall in 1973, where she worked in the budget department. She has spent the last four years working as an aide to the retiring Sedlmayr.
Wilkins has enlisted the help of Lesher/Wilson Communications, Inc., which is run by political strategist Jan Lesher. With an extensive Rolodex, Wilkins and Lesher have rounded up an interesting list of campaign contributors, which includes many politicos who have made small donations: Mayor George Miller and his wife Roslyn ($100), former mayor Tom Volgy ($50), former U.S. Rep. Jim McNulty ($25) and that familiar couple, state Rep. George Cunningham and his wife Marjorie ($20).
Although the bulk of Wilkins' contributors gave $50 or less, some were willing to write big checks, like Chris Monson, legendary land speculator Don Diamond's best-known lieutenant, who contributed $250, and real estate mogul Joe Cesare, who contributed the maximum $270.
Wilkins' opponent, Shirley Scott, is expected to apply for matching funds this week. Her last campaign finance report showed that she had raised only $510.
The Ward 4 Republican candidates are both newcomers to the political game and neither has a firm grasp of fundraising dynamics. Bill King, a 65-year-old accountant who recently served a brief stint as treasurer of the Pima County Republican Party, had raised only $314 by May 31 and says he's collected about $1,000 now. His opponent, 38-year-old printer Todd Clodfelter, estimates he's raised about $500, nearly doubling the $240 he reported having raised by May 31. Both men say they are concentrating on the issues instead of fundraising. Yeah, right.
Dollar Bills On Capitol Hill
A Look At who Gave The Big Money To Our Congressmen Last Year.
THE GOLDEN RULE of Washington politics: Money buys influence. If you write to your congressman, you might get a nice note in return, generally a form letter turned out by a staffer. If you toss a couple of hundred dollars to him, you can expect him to return phone calls. And if you're a lobbyist from a political action committee that dropped a couple of thousand dollars, you can expect the congressman to be sensitive to legislation that affects your interests.
The cost of that influence just keeps rising, as the expense of running for federal office climbs every election. In Arizona, half the winning U.S. House candidates spent more than $500,000 each, while Sen. Jon Kyl spent more than $4 million, setting new records for campaign spending in the state.
In their continuing efforts to raise the political consciousness of the country, the folks at Project Vote Smart have graciously shared information culled from the Center for Responsive Politics, which painstakingly gathered fundraising numbers from the Federal Election Commission.
In the 1994 elections, one fact stands out: The freshmen Republicans have done a much better job of raising money than the incumbents.
Republican Jon Kyl raised some $4,314,138, while our GOP senior senator, John McCain, picked up a mere $3,469,608 (expect that number to soar if McCain seeks re-election in 1998, which we can expect him to do if he doesn't resign to become President Phil Gramm's secretary of defense).
While Kyl received only 38 percent of his contributions from political action committees, he still picked up more than $1 million from PACs, including $74,623 from the oil and gas industry, $73,800 from insurance interests and $56,990 from defense electronics firms. With all that money from insurance companies, it should come as no surprise that Kyl is pushing tort reform.
There's a similar story in the House delegation. The three GOP newcomers, Matt Salmon, J.D. Hayworth and John Shadegg, all raised more money than the incumbents, Democrat Ed Pastor and Republicans Jim Kolbe and Bob Stump.
The delegation's biggest war chest was assembled by District 4's Shadegg, who collected $603,311, including $143,977 from PACs. Shadegg's top PAC contributions came from the health care organizations ($18,000), real estate interests ($10,500) and conservative Republican organizations ($10,498, including nearly $5,000 from Phyliss Schafly's Eagle Forum and $3,500 from Americans for a Republican Majority).
The real estate industry has already seen its investment pay off. During his first few months in the House, Shadegg has championed private property takings legislation, despite the fact that Arizona voters rejected it overwhelmingly in the same election that brought Shadegg into office.
Coming in second was Matt Salmon, who picked up $539,023, including $255,399 from PACs. The big bucks in his campaign came from the health care industry ($22,250), telephone utilities ($18,000, including $10,000 from his former employer, U. S. West) and the automotive industry ($11,500). Like Shadegg, he also did well with conservatives, scoring $4,500 from both the Eagle Forum and the Americans for a Republican Majority.
Rep. J.D. Hayworth collected $548,887 in contributions, with $172,656 coming from PACs, including $16,000 from medical professionals, $11,600 from oil and gas interests, and $10,400 from pro-gun lobbyists. The right-wing crowd also smiled on Hayworth, with $3,000 from the Eagle Forum and $3,520 from Americans for a Republican Majority.
Note that professional medical associations were the top contributors to all three freshmen's campaigns. Do you imagine any of them will be championing health care reform in the near future?
Southern Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe collected $496,848, with $158,365 coming from PACs. He did well with defense contractors ($23,208, including $9,808 from electronics firms and $8,700 from the aerospace industry) and oil and gas interests ($9,500). Kolbe also scored with the mines ($8,500) and banks ($7,000). Unlike the three freshmen, Kolbe didn't fare well with the ideological groups that poured thousands into other campaigns: He collected only $26 from the Americans for a Republican Majority and not one dime from the Eagle Forum.
Rep. Ed Pastor collected a total of $368,594, with $209,725 coming from PACs. His biggest contributions came from labor: a total of $68,750, with $24,250 from transportation unions, $19,750 from public sector unions and $19,750 from construction and industrial unions. He also led the delegation in donations from tobacco companies, raking in $5,000 from companies like Phillip Morris and RJR Nabisco.
Despite being the senior member of the delegation, Stump raised the least: a mere $189,792. The bulk of Stump's PAC monies came from defense industries (a total of $27,168, including $12,615 from aerospace and $9,250 from electronics), with $9,600 from health care companies as well. Stump didn't need much money--he's already established name recognition and faced a challenger who was only able to raise $4,651.
All together, Arizona Republicans collected more than $6 million in the congressional races, while the Democrats pulled in a little over $3 million. That's a fundraising pattern that has continued nationwide since the 1994 elections; according to a recent article in Time magazine, the GOP raised $60 million in the first two quarters of 1995, while the Democratic Party has pulled in only $37 million.
Wanna know more? More detailed lists of PAC contributions are available from Project Vote Smart at (800) 622-SMART. You can also get the records online, along with a whole bunch of other political info, at Project Vote Smart's new web page: http://www.vote-smart.org/.
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