Thursday, September 29, 2022

WATCH: "Blake Masters Supports Compromise" - New Million Dollar Ad Tries To Help Re-write Abortion Positions (FOLLOWING $$$ IN AZ'S POLITICS)

A new $1M digital ad buy from the Women Speak Out PAC touts GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters as one who "supports compromise" on abortion issues, and tries to portray Sen. Mark Kelly as being "extreme".

The irony of an effort to erase Masters' extreme rhetoric during the contentious GOP primary is capped by the fact that the principal funder of "Women Speak Out" is Richard Uihlein. The conservative billionaire's apparent gender switch would typically raise eyebrows in today's Republican party.

The digital ad buy was disclosed to the FEC yesterday. The SuperPAC is part of the Susan B. Anthony List organization and is primarily (more than 2/3) funded by Uihlein's Restoration PAC.

In addition to claiming that Masters "supports compromise", it touts that he supports regulating late-term abortions "with an exception to protect the mother". He had previously proclaimed support for "personhood" provisions that grant rights from the moment of fertilization. (And, this ad uses the term "late term" while actually tying it to a sonogram.)

The ad also misrepresents Mark Kelly's positions. Kelly recently pointed out that Roe v. Wade permitted restrictions late during pregnancy and that he supports that.

Here is the new ad:

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

VoteVets Starts $225k Digital Advertising Campaign To Blast Masters On Abortion (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

VoteVets Starts $225k Digital Advertising Campaign To Blast Masters On Abortion 

VoteVets has launched a $225,000 digital advertising campaign to blast Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters for his (earlier) anti-abortion stances. Featuring Army veteran Hillary - who lost her husband during the war in Iraq - the ads call Masters' positions "un-American".

The ad was co-launched with SMP. That Democratic organization accepts dark money. VoteVets reports that it has now spent nearly half-a-million dollars opposing Masters.





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Thursday, September 22, 2022

TONIGHT: 3 AZ GOP Reps. Vote Against Bipartisan Bill Boosting Police Funding (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

Three Republican Arizona Congressmen voted against a bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives today to boost funding for local police departments. The package will send $3B in grants over the next five years to small local and tribal agencies. It passed the House, 360-64.

Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and David Schweikert were among the 55 Republicans who opposed the measure. Nine Democrats voted against it, complaining that there were not enough accountability measures. Arizona Republican Debbie Lesko and the state's five Democrats supported the measure.

A review of the text of the bill shows the grants would provide for signing and retention bonuses, de-escalation training, body camera programs, and education/training for dealing with domestic violence and mental health situations.

The Senate passed a slightly different package, and the differences will have to be ironed out before sending it to President Biden's desk.


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Monday, September 12, 2022

SRP Offers Several Half-Hearted Reasons Why It Contributed $50,000 To Republican Governors, Benefitting Kari Lake Gubernatorial Campaign (NEWS ANALYSIS)

Two weeks ago, Arizona's Politics reported on APS and other "establishment Republicans" donating more than $2 million to the Republican Governors Association ("RGA"), and how that money was working to support the election of GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake. The article created a stir partly because RGA Chair - and outgoing Arizona Governor - Doug Ducey and other contributors had endorsed Lake's primary competitor (Karrin Taylor Robson).

The other reason it created a stir is that APS and SRP are big contributors to that RGA effort, in what political analyst Chris Herstam calls a "rotten game". As noted then, we asked both utilities to explain why they gave the monies and their reactions to it benefitting the more extreme Lake.

The question of public utilities and political contributions is a recurring one, and today's decision by SRP to raise customers' rates will likely bring renewed interest in it.

Salt River Project ("SRP") did respond, and a dialogue continued until late last week. SRP raised a few different points, and we wish to present them along with some added context. 

SRP made two separate $25,000 contributions to the RGA this past June. Their first reaction to Arizona's Politics was "Historically speaking, SRP has contributed to both the RGA and DGA. The contributions you are addressing occurred before the primaries. Monies were restricted to administrative support such as for maintenance of the organization and/or event programming. The funds did not go towards supporting any particular candidate."

We did not include that statement with the initial article because two of the three distinct claims were unsupported. And the article did, in fact, focus on the fact that the contributions were made before the donors knew whether Lake or Taylor Robson would win the primary. 

We pointed out to SRP that our experience in reviewing Arizona contributions and expenditures by the RGA - and, the Republican Attorneys General Association, and their Democratic counterparts - *contradicted* the claim of monies to both parties and that the RGA did not segregate monies in admin accounts and independent expenditure accounts.

We asked SRP for a listing of other political contributions to highlight partisan even-handedness, even suggesting broadening it to contributions made to other political committees. We also asked for information on SRP's PROCESS for green-lighting political contributions. After all, APS/Pinnacle West has created a webpage explaining their "Political Participation Policy" and disclosing some contributions which would not otherwise come to light. Finally, we asked for support on how SRP restricted its monies from going to support negative political ads.

Finally, SRP responded in more detail on Thursday. Their statement did evolve and tried to address some of the concerns. It included an RGA invoice that says it was for a 2022-23 membership "(Operating Account)". As you can see below, at the bottom, the invoice says monies may go to their PACs (for ads).
Historically, SRP has supported the Western Governors Association, a bipartisan group of Governors that advocate for western states’ unique perspectives on federal policy making.
SRP has also contributed to other organizations including the Republican Attorneys Generals Association, the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Attorneys General Association – when Arizona elected Democrats to those offices. I don’t have immediate access to the list of contributions dating back to 2003 to 2009, which is the last time Arizona elected a Democratic Governor, and it would involve a research process that is not within my bandwidth.
It is important to contextualize that SRP’s mission to provide low-cost and reliable electricity and water supplies is aided when our elected leaders and public policy makers have the opportunity to gather insights about emerging and important public-policy issues concerning SRP and the utility industry.

Besides failing to shed any light on SRP's process for making obviously-partisan political contribution, there are several gaps (to put it politely) in their logic. 

The Western Governors Association is not a purely partisan organization and should not be compared to either the RGA or the DGA. (It was Ducey himself who told CNN earlier this year that the RGA is in business to elect Republican state executives, and that they are good at it, as well.)

It took less than 5 minutes for Arizona's Politics to pull up and review the contributions reports for the Democratic Governors Association for the comparable year 2006. Needless to say, there are NO donations from SRP. 

Further, the (first) June contribution was for a 2022-2023 membership and that would seem to contradict the statement that these partisan contributions are to somehow keep SRP's mission in front of already-elected leaders. The legislative session was nearly over and Governor Ducey was on his way out the door. Also, SRP did not pay such "membership" fee(s) during 2021-2022, when the Governor was still gearing up for water-related policy-making.

Arizona's Politics has requested an interview with anyone at SRP who is involved in making the political contribution decisions, and will publish a follow-up report if warranted.

Former lots of stuff* Chris Herstam, who can simply be called an Arizona political analyst, explained to us why SRP's actions and explanations are "perverse":

“It’s perverse to see Arizona corporate entities launder their large campaign donations through a Ducey led association that is spending millions on electing extremist Kari Lake. Even more unacceptable are public utilities like SRP & APS playing the rotten game - two companies that would not be in business without Arizona ratepayers.”

Arizona's Politics is an unaffiliated, non-partisan political news blog. When we engage in analysis or commentary, we attempt to label it as such. This article may be classified as "news analysis" because it attempts to "provid(e) interpretations that add to a reader's understanding of a subject." Arizona attorney and journalist Paul Weich reported this article; Paul Weich has also run for the Arizona Legislature as a Democrat.

* Herstam has been a legislator, gubernatorial chief of staff, Insurance Dept. Director, President of AZ Board of Regents, and a lobbyist. He has earned his self-described Twitter bio as "former lots of stuff".

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Thursday, September 1, 2022

BREAKING: DSCC Blasts Blake Masters With New $1.8M Ad Buy, Still Trails GOP Counterpart (MONEY IN AZ'S POLITICS)

Arizona TV stations continue to reap the benefits of Arizona's swing state status, as the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ("DSCC") today disclosed a $1.8M ad buy to blast Blake Masters.

The buy - actually, two separate spends - brings the DSCC total benefitting Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) in his re-election battle to just over $5.3M for the cycle. 

Its Republican counterpart ("NRSC") last disclosed a new buy two weeks ago, but has spent more than $6.1M.

The NRSC and the DSCC are the parties' official disclosed-money operations to support U.S. Senate campaigns. Both are paired with operations that accept dark money contributions, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell is currently in a dispute with Blake Masters' benefactor and former employer, Peter Thiel over who should fund the negative ads against Kelly. According to yesterday's Washington Post, the Senate Leadership Fund canceled $8M in ad reservations to pound Kelly during the next few weks.

Here are the amounts spent to date in this cycle by each of these major organizations:

MARK KELLY
$29,775,670.13    Kelly's official campaign committee (not just advertising) (thru 7/31)
$  5,301,779.57    DSCC (thru 9/1 IE reports)
$  2,966,161.10    SMP (partly dark) (thru 8/31 IE reports)
$                           Majority Forward (nothing reported to FEC this cycle, but have run ads)
$38,043,610.80

BLAKE MASTERS
$  3,338,840.68       Masters' official campaign committee (not just advertising) (thru 7/13)
$  6,143,060.12       NRSC (thru 8/20 IE reports)
$                              Senate Leadership Fund (nothing reported to FEC this cycle, but have run ads)
$                              One Nation (nothing reported to FEC this cycle, but have run ads)
$10,651,381.19       Saving Arizona PAC (Thiel-funded pro-Masters Super-PAC) (thru 8/2 IE reports)
$20,133,281.99



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Monday, August 29, 2022

BREAKING: APS Spends Big To Elect Kari Lake; So, Too, Do Former Taylor Robson Endorsers, Others

Arizona’s two largest electric utilities have brought the power – and, the money – to Kari Lake’s effort to become the next Arizona Governor. Even if unintentionally.

APS’s parent company, Pinnacle West, has contributed more than $251,000 to the Republican Governors Association this election cycle, and Salt River Project (SRP) chipped in $50,000. APS has had a recent history of contributing large amounts to help elect outgoing Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, as well as funneling millions through dark money organizations to elect Corporation Commissioners.

The contributions to RGA are publicly disclosed quarterly, in filings with the Internal Revenue Service. A review of the most recent reports (below) indicate that PinnWest gave $101,000 in 2021 and $150,000 through the first six months of 2022. SRP’s two $25,000 checks both were reported this past June.

Ducey is the Chair of the national RGA powerhouse, which has raised $60M in 2022. RGA Press secretary Will Reinert tells Arizona’s Politics that the RGA is all in on the Arizona race between Republican nominee Kari Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs. “In the Spring, we reserved $10M in ad time, and we added another million after the primary.”

Before the August 2 primary, Ducey blasted Lake and had been evasive during a CNN interview about whether the RGA would support Lake if she defeated Karrin Taylor Robson. ("To be determined...we don't support landslides.") The ad buys answer that question, and the first ad (which has stopped running) featured a woman associated with QAnon with the ad referencing child trafficking.

APS and SRP are not the only Arizona companies or individuals who put in significant amounts of funds to the RGA effort, even before the primary was decided. More than $2M in Arizona monies went to the RGA; there are 29 who contributed at least $10,000.  The RGA is gradually transferring it – and more – to its Arizona political committee to pay for the ads. (Note: Contributions to candidates are limited, but there are no limits to organizations such as the RGA. PinnWest does not contribute to the Democratic Governors Association.)

Many big contributors were Taylor Robson endorsees, and Arizona’s Politics has reached out to a few for their comments. None have responded yet, but it calls to mind Ducey’s well-reported comments indicating that he preferred Wendy Rogers to her (last) Democratic opponent because he wants to “move my agenda forward”. (We have also asked APS and SRP for comments, and will update this article as warranted.)

Lauren Kuby is running on a Democratic slate for Corporation Commission. Her slate partner is Sandra Kennedy, who is one of the candidates who was slimed by APS's previous dark money campaigns. Kuby issued this statement to Arizona's Politics:

Over $250,000 to weaken democracy, take away abortion rights, and deny climate science. Not a good look for APS... when we know that over 70% of Arizonans want to see a transition to a clean energy future. Their contribution to the Governor's race is disturbing. The flow of money to legislators who want to kneecap the powers of ACC stands in contradiction to their pledge to stay out of the ACC race. Let's shine a spotlight on these contributions, as the voters have a right to know who's trying to influence their elections and increase their electric utility rates.
Here is a list of the largest Arizona contributors to the RGA in 2022:

1. PinnWest, $251,000 (2021-22 combined)
2. Blandford Homes, $150,000
3. GM, LLC, $150,000
4. University of Phoenix, $125,000
5. SGA, $100,000
6. Timothy Day, $100,000
7. Charter One, LLC, $100,000
8. DFX, LLC, $100,000
9. Drew Brown (DMB Development), $100,000
10. John Hammergren, $70,000
11. Thirunavukkaras Thangarthinam (MST Solutions), $70,000
12. Gregory Milzcik, $70,000
13. Tom Lewis, $50,000
14. Offerpad, LLC, $50,000
15. Gila River Indian Community, $50,000
16. Lawrence Heitz, $50,000
17. Quynh Nhu Palomino, $50,000
18. Robert Delgado (Pres. Of Hensley), $50,000
19. Shamrock Foods, $50,000
20. SRP, $50,000
21. Art Martori, $35,000
22. El Dorado Holdings, $35,000
23. Barbara Barrett, $35,000
24. Jim Click, $35,000
25. Marilyn Hayden, $35,000
26. Jerre Stead (Clarivate PLC), $35,000

Links to the 2022 reports - 1st quarter and 2nd quarter.

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Friday, April 15, 2022

BREAKING: Sinema Adds $1.4M To Her Warchests For 2024; Travels With Security Detail

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema received less contributions from corporate PACs in the 1st quarter of 2022, but built up her warchests to $7.7M cash on hand for the 2024 campaign.

The reports also disclose that the lawmaker spent nearly $10,000/month for a traveling security detail as she continues to deal with disgruntled fellow Democrats.

The bottom line numbers for her main campaign account look like this, with her increasing the bank account balance to just shy of $7M:

Of those receipts, $185,500 are from PACs (mostly corporate).

Sinema's leadership PAC - Getting Stuff Done PAC - brought in another $197,500 in PAC monies. A quick perusal shows a number of pharmaceutical and financial companies kicked in. The PAC contribution total is half of what she brought in in that category for the last quarter of 2021.

Her security detail expenses - paid out of the leadership PAC - totaled $28,656 for January through March. The report (below) also shows trips to Park City, Utah and a $34,500 tab at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona (for event facility rental).

Sinema is likely to face a Democratic primary challenge in 2024, and a difficult general election if she proceeds. Rumors continue to circulate that she either will run as an Independent or make a Presidential bid.

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Thursday, March 31, 2022

BREAKING: Ken Bennett, Senate's Election "Audit" Liaison Starts Last-Minute Bid To Re-Join The Senate

The State Senate's liaison to last year's notorious Maricopa County election "audit" is making a last-minute bid to re-join the State Senate.
(Ken Bennett watching a Ninja)


Ken Bennett was previously best known for his 1 1/2 terms as Arizona's Secretary of State and his stint as President of the Senate. He filed a Statement of Interest yesterday to begin collecting signatures for the GOP nomination in LD1, and would be replacing current Senate President Karen Fann.

Two Republicans have already filed their nominating signatures - former Rep. Noel Campbell and Steve Zipperman. Bennett's six day sprint indicates that he and others are likely not happy with those choices.

The deadline for all partisan candidates to submit signatures is this coming Monday, April 4. With the eQual system BACK ONLINE as of last night, Bennett has the opportunity to get some 450 supporters to sign online.



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