Once again, the nation takes note of how stupid we are in Arizona, courtesy of the “Arizona Free Enterprise Club.”
AFEC’s dark money mailer targeting Scottsdale City Councilman Bob Littlefield (now running for AZ state legislature in District 23) caught the eye of the Washington Post. The Post gave it a fair amount of attention in their article yesterday.
Who is AFEC, you may ask? It claims to be
…a free market policy and lobbying group dedicated to promoting a strong and vibrant Arizona economy.
The acknowledged founding members of the “club” are
- Dean Reisen, real estate developer.
- Eric Crown, founder of the Insight computer company in Tempe.
- Sam Garvin, real estate developer.
- Bob Hobbs, of material handling equipment company Naumann/Hobbs.
- David Thompson, owner of aerospace and defense companies.
- Steve Voeller, longtime political staffer.
I guess in one sense it’s no surprise that those who feed at the trough of development would oppose someone who is a strong advocate for careful planning and management of development and growth.
It is ironic though that this group, which has opposed and appears to continue to oppose light rail, would work so hard against one of only two members of the Scottsdale City Council who’ve actively fought against it coming to Scottsdale (Littlefield, along with sophomore councilman Guy Phillips).
Phoenix Can’t Afford Stanton’s Light Rail Boondoggle
Published August 19, 2014 | By Scot Mussi [AFEC president]
Metro Light Rail, the slow-moving, unsightly train system that cost $1.4 billion to build in 2008 and costs taxpayers tens of millions in losses each year, may be expanding soon if Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has his way. In fact, his goal is to triple it over the next 30 years.
At a time when resources are still scarce, and there are so many pressing transportation needs around Arizona, this is just a terrible idea. The City of Phoenix alone recovers less than half of what it spends each year to operate and maintain the system, not unlike other East Valley cities. Further, as the Arizona Republic noted, tax revenue for the project could be $1 billion short of projections due to the tanking economy.
So how are Mayor Stanton and other city leaders going to fund an expansion of a system that is already hemorrhaging money, while trying to make up for a $1 billion shortfall? There’s only one way: More taxes. Specifically higher taxes both before Transit 2000 expires in 2020, and after if voters approve.
So join the Club in fighting this horrible idea, and let Mayor Stanton know that we can’t just can’t afford this scheme – especially with so many of our roads in need of repair. You can make your voice heard through Talktransportation.org, and let your elected representatives know just how you feel about expanding Light Rail, and its effect on both your taxes, and the financial future of Phoenix.
Also ironic is that AFEC founder David Thompson who is a veteran (USAF Academy graduate) would oppose the only combat veteran (Littlefield served two tours in the US Army in Vietnam) on the city council (Littlefield’s legislative opponent Jay Lawrence is a USAF veteran, more on the opponents in a moment).
A bit more on AFEC. The Arizona Republic reports:
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club has exploded into public view this summer, spending nearly $1.6 million thus far on independent campaigns — primarily to stack the Corporation Commission with utility-friendly legislators and to fill the state’s No. 2 job with the son of a corporation commissioner [Justin Pierce].
No one knows where the dark money is coming from, though it’s generally believed that Arizona Public Service is funding the stealth campaign to select the regulators who will regulate the utility.
However, AFEC has also spent a LOT of money in the AZ governor’s race.
…[Gubernatorial candidate Scott] Smith believes the [opposing Doug] Ducey campaign is illegally coordinating with the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, saying it’s no coincidence that Ducey’s attorney, Mike Liburdi, is also representing Arizona Free Enterprise Club.
The Republic also reported recently that AFEC appears to have broken campaign finance law:
Elections officials concluded Friday [August 15] there is reasonable cause to believe the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which has spent more than $1 million primarily to influence voters in statewide races, has violated elections laws.
So down to Scot Mussi. He is executive director and, as reported by the Republic, the sole remaining board member of AFEC (Reisen and board member Randy Kendrick followed the others in departing the AFEC board in July 2014). Mussi used to be a lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona. How do you think THAT group feels about thoughtful city planning and zoning?
Reading through the AFEC website, I see several references to opposing “corporate welfare.” Yet when the Scottsdale City Council voted to give Phil Mickelson a $2 million subsidy, we never heard from AFEC. Ditto the $20 million or so given to the PGA at the TPC Scottsdale, $4 million every year to the Scottsdale Cultural Council (via no-bid, 20-year contract, which includes millions of dollars in free rent), the annual taxpayer-funded subsidy for Jason Rose’s polo matches, and the million dollars in taxpayer money spent for a Super Bowl party in Scottsdale.
Bob Littlefield is the most fiscally conservative member of the Scottsdale City Council (save Guy Phillips), and frequently opposes this kind of wasteful spending. Why wouldn’t AFEC want that same attitude in the state legislature?
What DOES AFEC want? Well, no one is really sure other than the aforementioned Arizona Public Service connection. Interestingly, even though AFEC opposes Littlefield in LD 23, they haven’t published endorsements of any other candidates running for the same LD 23 seats. Does this mean they just dislike Bob the most? Or perhaps their endorsement is seen by some as toxic?
One thing is sure: You should be very suspicious of any candidate endorsed by AFEC. Here’s the list.
- Doug Ducey for Governor
- Jeff Dewit for Treasurer
- Justin Pierce for Secretary of State
- Tom Forese for Corporation Commission
- Doug Little for Corporation Commission
- Vince Leach for LD 11 House
- Steve Smith for LD 11 Senate
- Mark Finchem for LD 11 Senate
- Jill Norgaard for LD 18 House
- Shawnna Bolick for LD 28 House
- Darin Mitchell for LD 13 House
- Steve Montenegro for LD 13 House
- Dave Farnsworth for LD 16 Senate
- John King for LD 18 House
- Anthony Kern for LD 20 House
- Paul Boyer for LD 20 House
- Justin Olson for LD 25 House
- Rusty Bowers for LD 25 House
- Ralph Heap for LD 25 Senate
And make sure you vote for Bob Littlefield for State Representative from Legislative District 23!