Jones tops among gubernatorial candidates in spending - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Jones tops among gubernatorial candidates in spending

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Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014 10:36 am | Updated: 11:02 am, Wed Aug 27, 2014.

Candidates for governor and their allies have so far spent close to $16 million in the race to come out on top this coming Tuesday in the Republican primary. And that's what we know about.

Reports directly from candidates, which were due this weekend, so far show Christine Jones leading the spending frenzy at nearly $5.6 million, virtually all of that being her own money.

Doug Ducey filed paperwork showing $4.3 million in expenses, including $2.9 million from his own pocket, with Scott Smith's report lagging at $1.1 million with $150,000 of personal and family money

Far behind was Frank Riggs who logged just $212,000 in expenses. Ken Bennett and Andrew Thomas, having agreed not to take private donations, each qualified to spend $753,616 in public dollars for the primary.

But that's just the tip of the monetary iceberg.

A host of independent committees have been buying TV commercials, sending mailers and making robocalls, both for their favored candidates and, in large amounts, to weaken their foes.

Consider Business Leaders for Arizona, funded by GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons; the most recent reports show it has spent more than $425,000 directly to help Jones, a former GoDaddy executive, the GOP nominee, on top of her own spending. The committee also lists close to $1.5 million in a separate effort to keep Ducey, who has been running at the front in several late polls, from claiming the nomination.

This committee is disclosing Parsons as its beneficiary. By contrast, the source of the cash for other groups is hidden behind arguments that they are “social welfare” organizations that just happen to get involved in politics.

For example, the 60 Plus Association lists no donors — but nearly $330,000 in efforts to defeat Jones and another $466,000 aimed at keeping Smith from being the nominee.

Ditto for Conservative Leadership for Arizona, with $34,000 attacking Jones, nearly $60,000 against Smith while putting another $213,000 into pro-Ducey ads.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club has spent another $150,000 attacking Smith.

And then there's a whole category of spending that is below the radar.

For example, the Legacy Foundation Action Fund aired a TV commercial in the Phoenix market earlier this year equating Smith with President Obama, at least in part because of Smith's role when he was Mesa mayor as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. But the organization did not report spending, saying it was working to “educate” voters, particularly in Mesa, about Smith, and not to influence the GOP primary.

Thomas Collins, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, acknowledged the commercial never expressly told viewers how to mark their ballots. But he said the ad, which depicted Smith and the mayors' group agreeing with President Obama on things like the Affordable Care Act, gun control and climate change, clearly was designed to influence voters.

“This advertisement, in context, has no meaning other than to advocate against Smith for governor,” he told commissioners. “Other possible meanings are not reasonable.”

The group has filed suit to stop a commission probe.

And Veterans for a Strong America spent an untold — and unreported — amount on commercials saying Jones lied about being in the Air Force and showed bad judgment in praising former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As much as has been spent by outside groups in the governor's race, the influence of that money shows up more, in proportion, in the race for two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

On paper, this is a low-spending race.

Tom Forese, Doug Little and Vernon Parker are running with public funds. Forese and Little already have received their $97,620 allocation; Parker, who had not qualified at last report, listed $24,000 in expenses.

Lucy Mason, running privately, has spent less than $27,000.

But that cash has been dwarfed by two groups doing what they can to ensure the election of Forese and Little.

Most significant is the more than $830,000 spent by Save Our Future Now attacking Parker, with another $30,000 aimed at Mason. At the same time, the organization, which is not disclosing donors, has spent $427,000 jointly on behalf of Forese and Little.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club also has been busy, putting about $310,000 for both Forese and Little while spending another $113,000 attacking Mason and Parker.

There is spending on the other side, with Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed, or TUSK, putting close to $290,000 of money from undisclosed sources into efforts to elect Mason and Parker.

The Secretary of State's Race also is showing a candidate can agree to accept limited public funding, refuse outside money — and still end up with a financial lead.

Justin Pierce got $195,280 from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission for his race. That compares with $336,000 spent from private contributions reported by Michele Reagan and close to $400,000 spent by Wil Cardon.

Pierce also has been the beneficiary of more than $437,000 in spending by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. And the same group, pushing from the other end to get Pierce elected, put $198,000 in anti-Cardon ads and mailers, with another $97,000 aimed at Reagan.

Reagan, however, did score a $10,000 expense on her behalf by Arizona's Legacy, the political action committee run by Gov. Jan Brewer.

In the attorney general's race, challenger Mark Brnovich had spent about $134,000 by the end of the reporting period, trailing the $621,000 spent by incumbent Tom Horne who has benefitted from $300,000 of family money. But in this race, too, outside funds are playing a role.

The Arizona Public Integrity Alliance reported spending nearly $185,000 in attacks on Horne, and Brnovich also benefitted from another $50,000 put into the race on his behalf by the State Conservative Reform Action PAC.

There was less outside cash in the treasurer's race, with the Free Enterprise Club spending more than $80,000 to defeat Hugh Hallman. Another $27,750 was spent by Preserve America's Future against Jeff DeWit and $22,250 against Randy Pullen.

No candidate is running with public dollars, with Hugh Hallman reporting close to $340,000 in spending, compared to almost $204,000 for Jeff DeWit and $151,000 for Randy Pullen.

In the GOP race for school superintendent, both incumbent John Huppenthal and challenger Diane Douglas are using public dollars, each getting $97,620 to spend toward the nomination.

This is the only statewide race where there is a Democrat primary, with both collecting outside funds. Sharon Thomas listed about $3,900 in expenses this campaign; David Garcia missed Friday's filing deadline.

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