Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gonzo, Diamondbacks Take Lead Off 1st - May've Already Taken 2nd - In Dark Money Fantasy Game (NEWS ANALYSIS REDUX; #50ShadesOfDarkMoney)

(Editor's Note: This is a republication of the News Analysis originally published on June 24, 2016. The U.S. and Arizona Chambers of Commerce have decided to bring back the ad for a $200,000 campaign in the remaining days of the primary battle.)

With Arizona Diamondbacks' Legend/Big Head/Senior Advisor Luis Gonzalez' new dark money ad for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the team may have already stolen 2nd base in the (new) Dark Money Fantasy Baseball Game (™ pending).

Arizona's Politics was first to report yesterday on the $574,000 ad buy by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Arizona Chamber. Concurrent with that article, we queried several of the parties about the unusual 30-second spot.

Initially, we received the same statements from the team* and Gonzalez that the Arizona Republic's E.J. Montini used in his praise column this morning.** Unfortunately, those comments were not exactly responsive to either the questions nor the issues posed by the "Gonzo Loves Maverick" ad.

See, Gonzo's ad for the Republican Senator would have been unremarkable except for two primary things. First, if he had filmed the ad directly for McCain's campaign, we would have known where the money to produce and air the ad came from. He instead filmed the homage for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The former is one of the original dark money operations, and the latter has bulked up its "us, too" efforts the past few years.

Second, the Arizona Diamondbacks - a private entity with very public entity aspects - are also participants in this ad.  The ad prominently displays new the Diamondbacks logo and uniforms. Typically, that is a big no-no - especially without prior approval.

The Diamondbacks tell Arizona's Politics that they did NOT know that their logos would be used in the ad. The spokesperson-who-shall-remain-nameless did not answer whether the team approved the use of the gear.

It is not unreasonable to be concerned about whether the Arizona Diamondbacks (or, one of its most visible employees/ambassadors) are utilizing dark money channels to support (or oppose) political candidates or issues. After all, the team is somewhat-inextricably intertwined with Maricopa County taxpayers (through the Stadium District), and that relationship is currently in flux. You might even say it is caught in no-man's land, between 1st and 2nd, as the Diamondbacks' owners angle for a better deal from the County without resorting to salary arbitration or free agency.

The team* also said that "we" did not finance the ad. That statement does not say whether it was paid for the use of its logos and images, nor whether it - or ANYONE associated with the team - has actually contributed to either of the Chambers of Secrets to air the ad.

Most of the questions we raised with the Diamondbacks*** remain unanswered. Add to those the extra condiments of - (1) the McCains (through their ownership of Hensley & Co.) are original investors in the Diamondbacks; (2) another original D'backs investor is APS (through Pinnacle West), which has become the subject of inquiries for its admitted, extensive use of dark money entities over the past few years; and (3) the Kendricks (Ken is managing general partner for the D'backs' ownership) are frequently credited with match-making an introduction that led to the best-known dark money marriage, between Sean Noble and the Koch Brothers - and you have one heck of a "Diamondbacks Dark Money Dog".

Again, if this had been a Gonzo ad for the McCain's campaign committee, (almost all of) these points would be of little interest. However, if Gonzo and the Diamondbacks are running the basepaths of dark money, the questions should be asked - and answered.

*Interestingly, they asked that no individual's name be attached to the statements.
**Here was the Diamondacks' full initial response (sans names):

You may use the statement below on behalf of the Arizona Diamondbacks, however the statement should not be quoted by me nor anyone else in the organization. It is simply a statement on behalf of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Although Luis Gonzalez is an employee of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, Gonzo, as a citizen, has the right to support any political party and/or candidate of his choosing. This is his personal endorsement, as the organization does not support any candidates for office. As an organization, we would never get in the way of any employee who wishes to support a candidate, as it is a right.”
You may use the quote below from Luis Gonzalez:
“John McCain is a longtime friend of mine and I support his efforts in the Arizona community.” 
***Here are the questions posed:

1) Obviously, the first question is whether the Arizona Diamondbacks knew about this ad in advance and/or approved it?
2) Did the Arizona Diamondbacks - directly or indirectly - finance this ad by contributing money - directly or indirectly - to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Arizona Chamber? If so, when and how much? Are the Diamondbacks directly or indirectly contributing to benefit Sen. McCain's re-election efforts?
3) Did the U.S. Chamber, Arizona Chamber or the McCain campaign pay the Arizona Diamondbacks for the right to use Dbacks/MLB images?
4) Are the McCains - either directly or through Hensley - currently investors in the club? If so, %?
5) How would you respond to Diamondbacks fans who might be upset by the appearance that the team is on McCain's side in what is currently a tightcampaign for both the nomination and  the general election?
 Quick follow-up: MLB (and presumably, the D'backs) strictly enforce the use of their logos and images, even when they are being used by players, employees, owners, etc. Did the D'backs approve the usage of their logos/images? Were they paid for such usage?

****By the way, was the effort to label Luis Gonzalez as a "Former Arizona Diamondback" a subtle way of putting some distance between the team and the ad? Gonzalez is CURRENTLY an Arizona Diamondback, with the title of Senior Advisor to the President and CEO.

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com or call 602-799-7025. Thanks.

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