Campaign Finance Deja Vu

I almost can’t believe it’s happening again. Those of us who pay attention to such things noticed that the Chamber of Commerce filed a political committee with the Scottsdale City Clerk not long ago. Then they promptly filed an amendment to remove “Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce” from the name of the PC. We’ve known all along that they intend to try to heavily influence the election next month for the developer-friendly changes to the General Plan. It’s no surprise that they filed a PC. Scrubbing their name off the PC seemed a little strange, though.

Mayo AZ's Wyatt Decker
SHC CEO Tom Sadvary

However, when the first campaign advertising postcard for Proposition 430 hit mailboxes yesterday [front, rear], I was astonished that there was no “paid for by” statement on the mailer. The signatures of the Tom Sadvary (Scottsdale Healthcare CEO) and Wyatt Decker (newly-appointed Mayo Clinic Arizona CEO) are featured prominently, though, which is also surprising given that political activities by hospital facilities are generally discouraged. Without the “paid for by” statement, it almost looks like SHC and Mayo paid for this campaign mailer. While there are some Mayo folks who have been involved with the Chamber of Commerce, I don’t think anyone in Mayo leadership previously has publicly participated in political activity, particularly using the Mayo name which is one of the most treasured in the medical world.

Mike Ryan, AZ Republic
Rick Kidder, Chamber CEO

I believe that this mailer violates at least one and possibly several state statutes governing campaign finance disclosure. I filed a complaint with the Scottsdale City Clerk yesterday (which I’ve copied below), and she forwarded it to Chamber CEO Rick Kidder for his response prior to investigating further. Stay tuned.

I also note that the Arizona Republic published an editorial this morning urging voters to approve the General Plan changes. No surprise there, either. This is a legacy of the Republic’s less-than-arms-length involvement with the Chamber in years past. “Scottsdale” Republic general manager Michael Ryan was a member of the Chamber’s executive committee during the Chamber’s last campaign finance dalliance almost four years ago. To his credit, Ryan subsequently resigned from that position, but only after it got pretty hot in the kitchen.

As a reminder of “what happened last time,” the Chamber spent a bunch of money on TV ads and a first-rate mailer (4-page, full-color) supporting former Mayor Manross, and council members Betty Drake, Ron McCullagh, and Suzanne Klapp.

I filed a campaign finance complaint against the Chamber, as did then-Councilman Jim Lane’s mayoral campaign committee. The city attorney conflicted himself out of prosecuting the complaint because Manross was his boss. It was sent to Terry Goddard, then AZ AG, who also conflicted out because he did voiceovers for Manross robocalls that started broadcasting the day after he declared his conflict. The complaints were then forwarded to the Tucson City Attorney who, after several months, declared the Chamber in violation.

The Chamber appealed to the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings, which found against them. The Chamber then sued the City of Scottsdale to appeal the violation and the order to disclose their donors. The Maricopa County Superior Court ruled in the Chamber’s favor, and Scottsdale City Attorney Bruce Washburn declined to appeal. Of course, by that time Lane was the Mayor, and Chamber members Klapp and McCullagh were on the Council. In the subsequent “settlement” the Chamber was released from paying a fine and disclosing donors to their campaign.

Washburn won’t have a conflict this time because this is not a candidate campaign. Maybe we won’t have to play, ‘watch the bouncing campaign complaint.’ But, don’t hold your breath.

Here’s my complaint:

Ms. Jagger,

I just received in the mail this afternoon a campaign postcard supporting Proposition 430, signed by the CEO’s of Scottsdale Healthcare and Mayo Clinic Arizona. I will forward a copy of this advertisement in a separate message.

There is small print at the bottom of the front side that says, “Yes for Scottsdale – In Support of Proposition 430.”

I recognize this phrase as corresponding to the name of a Scottsdale political committee recently registered with your office by the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce. However, nowhere on this postcard does it say whether the mailing was paid for by this political committee, by the Chamber of Commerce, by Scottsdale Healthcare, or by Mayo Clinic Arizona. I do not believe either SHC or MCA have registered as political committees with your office.

This campaign mailer appears to violate several provisions of ARS 16-912.01 and possibly other statutes, including but not limited to the provisions highlighted below.

Please take the appropriate steps to remedy these violations and compel the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce accordingly to disclose funding sources for its campaign.

 A.R.S. 16-912.01. Ballot measure committees; campaign literature and advertising funding; identification; disclosure; civil penalty; definition

A. A political committee that makes an expenditure in connection with any literature or advertisement to support or oppose a ballot proposition shall disclose and, after November 2, 2010, shall include on the literature or advertisement the words “paid for by“, followed by the name of the committee that appears on its statement of organization or five hundred dollar threshold exemption statement, and shall also include in such literature or advertisement the four largest of its major funding sources as of the time the literature or advertisement is printed, recorded or otherwise produced for dissemination. If a political committee has fewer than four major funding sources, the committee shall disclose all major funding sources.

B. For the purposes of this section, a major funding source of a political committee is any contributor that is not an individual person and that has made cumulative contributions of either:

1. Ten thousand dollars or more for an expenditure in support of or opposition to a statewide ballot proposition or a ballot proposition of a political subdivision with a population of one hundred thousand persons or more.

2. Five thousand dollars or more for an expenditure in support of or opposition to a ballot proposition of a political subdivision with a population of less than one hundred thousand persons.

C. If an out-of-state contributor or group of out-of-state contributors is a major funding source to a political committee disclosed pursuant to subsection A, the political committee shall state the contributor is an out-of-state contributor on its literature or advertisement in support of or in opposition to a ballot proposition.

D. Contributors that make contributions to more than one political committee that supports or opposes the same ballot proposition shall notify each political committee of the cumulative total of these contributions. Cumulative totals must be disclosed by each political committee that received contributions from the same contributor if the cumulative totals qualify as a major funding source to be disclosed pursuant to subsection A.

E. Any disclosure statement required by this section shall be printed clearly and legibly in a conspicuous manner in type at least as large as the majority of the printed text. For printed material that is delivered or provided by hand or by mail, the disclosure shall be printed in a font that is at least 3/32 inches tall in dark type on light background surrounded by a dark box. If the communication is broadcast on radio, the information shall be spoken at the end of the communication. If the communication is broadcast on a telecommunications system, the information shall be both written and spoken at the end of the communication, except that if the disclosure statement is written for at least five seconds of a thirty second advertisement broadcast or ten seconds of a sixty second advertisement broadcast, a spoken disclosure statement is not required. If the communication is broadcast on a telecommunications system, the written disclosure statement shall be printed in letters equal to or larger than four per cent of the vertical picture height.

F. Subsection A does not apply to bumper stickers, pins, buttons, pens and similar small items on which the statements required in subsection A cannot be conveniently printed or to a communication by an organization solely to its members.

G. A committee shall change future literature and advertisements to reflect any change in funding sources that must be disclosed pursuant to subsection A.

H. This section only applies to advertisements the contents of which are more than fifty per cent devoted to one or more ballot propositions or proposed measures on the same subject.

I. Any committee that violates this section is liable in a civil action brought by the attorney general, county attorney or city or town attorney, as appropriate, or by any other person for a civil penalty of three times the total cost of the advertisement. A donor who does not accurately disclose its contributions is liable for a civil penalty of three times the amount donated.

J. For the purposes of this section, “advertisement” means general public advertising through the print and electronic media, signs, billboards and direct mail.

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