Democratic PAC Invests Over $120K Into GOP State Representative That Defends Unions

Democratic PAC Invests Over $120K Into GOP State Representative That Defends Unions

By Corinne Murdock |

Since last summer, a Democratic political action committee (PAC), Revitalize Arizona, has invested over $120,200 into State Representative David Cook (R-Globe). Their latest investment was nearly $12,500 in communications advocacy, reported on Monday. 

In total, Revitalize Arizona invested 250 percent more into Cook than in the next-highest candidate from 2021 and this year, all of whom were Democrats.

Altogether, Revitalize Arizona spent about $128,500 in favor of Democratic candidates from 2021 to present — about $20,800 more for eight candidates. 

Over the past decade, Revitalize Arizona has spent well over $1 million opposing Republican state and local-level candidates. By comparison, the PAC spent approximately $10,000 opposing one Democratic candidate in 2020: State Representative Richard Andrade (D-Glendale). 

Revitalize Arizona funds began flowing to Cook last June, after Cook was the only Republican to join Democrats in voting against legislation that would’ve prohibited cities and counties from requiring prevailing wages or union labor as a condition of receiving a bid or contract. 

Revitalize Arizona, a Tempe-based PAC, is chaired by Israel Torres, a partner in the Torres Consulting and Law Group, which chairs the same address as the PAC. The PAC funneled $48,000 to the group in 2020, totaling over $122,100 over the past decade. It also paid Torres Multicultural Communications, previously known as Torres Marquez Communications, over $681,200 over the past decade, with the majority paid out to the firm in 2019: nearly $646,000. 

All of their funds come from another PAC run by Torres: Residents for Accountability. That PAC receives its funds largely from unions. Among its funders from the past two years are the Arizona Pipe Trades 469 PAC, affiliated with a union, and Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) Action Fund PAC, affiliated with a social justice nonprofit. Over the past decade, a number of other union-affiliated PACs have funded Residents for Accountability.

The PAC has a history of investing in Democratic polling companies such as the D.C.-based Lake Research Partners, whose past clientele have included President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Janet Napolitano, Sheila Jackson Lee, AFL-CIO, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Arizona.  

They’ve also invested in Democratic polling company SKD Knickerbocker, from which Anita Dunn hailed — Biden’s senior advisor and former President Barack Obama’s communications director. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

At Least 24 Percent of Arizona Legislators Funded By 50 Percent or More PAC, Lobbyist Money

At Least 24 Percent of Arizona Legislators Funded By 50 Percent or More PAC, Lobbyist Money

By Corinne Murdock |

AZ Free News sampled 46 legislators’ latest campaign finance reports of the state legislature and found that 22 of 47 legislators sampled received 50 percent or more of their campaign contributions from either lobbyists or PACs. 

PACs and lobbyists have significant footing in the legislature. That would explain why the first week of January is known as “hell week” within the legislature — not because they’re in preparation for the new session kicking off, but because lobbyists are scrambling to fundraise for legislators. Arizona law prohibits legislators from receiving lobbyist campaign contributions while in regular session. 

The following are state legislators that receive 50 percent or more of their campaign funds from PACs and lobbyists combined: 

In the House, Richard Andrade (D-Glendale), about 51 percent; Ben Toma (R-Peoria), about 56 percent; Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), about 62 percent; Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), about 64 percent; John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), about 64 percent; Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa), about 64 percent; Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson), about 66 percent; Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear), about 74 percent; David Cook (R-Globe), about 75 percent; Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), about 79 percent; John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), about 83 percent; Tim Dunn (R-Yuma), about 87 percent; and Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley), about 96 percent. 

In the Senate, Vince Leach (R-Tucson), about 53 percent; T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge), about 56 percent;  David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), about 71 percent; Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita), about 73 percent; Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale), about 75 percent; Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), about 79 percent;  Tyler Pace (R-Mesa), about 82 percent; Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), about 90 percent; and David Livingston (R-Peoria), about 91 percent.

Of note, all of Gowan’s 32 contributions came from outside of his district — 28 came from Maricopa County. Additionally, $5,000 of Gowan’s $8,950 non-lobbyist contributions came from Phoenix Coyotes owner Alex Merulo.

Butler received over $10,000 from the Tucson branch of one of the largest labor unions in the country: the United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW). Her PAC contributions totaled $13,000, and $150 of her individual contributions were from lobbyists. There were several inactive lobbyist donors among the individual contributions totaling $250. In all, Butler’s total contributions were over $13,700.

Wilmeth’s ten non-lobbyist donors included three inactive lobbyists and one wife of an inactive lobbyist. 

Five legislators sampled reportedly received less than 10 percent of funds from PACs and lobbyists: Morgan Abraham, about 4 percent; Quang Nguyen, about 7 percent; Judy Burges, about 7 percent; Amish Shah, about 7 percent; and Joseph Chaplik, about 8 percent.

There were several legislators sampled that we couldn’t review because their reports haven’t been filed yet — even though they were due well over two months ago.

State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) still hasn’t filed her campaign finance report due April 15. Hernandez has been late consistently since her first year in office (2018), accruing $3,500 in fines altogether. Her latest campaign finance report, which she has yet to file, is 76 days late and she owed $1,675 currently — her highest single fine to date. It took Hernandez 69 extra days to file her 2021 cumulative finance report: it was due January 15, but she filed it March 25. 

Just over half of Hernandez’s individual donors from her last report, the cumulative one for 2021, were from out of state and made up the majority of those contributions: $5,980 versus the $3,920 from Arizona. Among them were several prominent figures in the Jewish community including acclaimed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha Wiesel, as well as Broadway star Jonah Platt.

State Senator Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) did file her report on time — but like Hernandez, over half of the individual contributors on her latest campaign finance report were from out of state. 

It appears that the Hernandez siblings are alike when it comes to campaign finance reports. Since the year his sister took office, Hernandez grew increasingly tardy with filing the reports. For two separate 2020 reports, he accrued over $5,100 in fines. His 2021 cumulative report was filed late by 67 days, and he was fined $1,450 for that. Both the Hernandez siblings are 76 days late on their first quarter report.

Another perennially tardy filer is State Representative César Chávez (D-Maryvale). Like Hernandez, he is 76 dates late and owes $1,675, but for his senate campaign’s first quarter report. Chávez was also late by 58 days to file his senate campaign’s 2021 cumulative report, owing $1,225. 

Similarly to Hernandez, Chávez has a history of late filings, the highest of which were 121 days late to file his 2020 pre-general election filing, 163 days late to file his 2016 pre-general election report, and 953 days late to file his 2016 first report for the fourth quarter and post-general election report.

One interesting campaign finance report came from State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff). The report totaled nearly 600 pages, with 586 dedicated to individual contributions alone that totaled nearly $360,000. No lobbyists could be discerned among the over 7,000 contributors, and over 1,600 of them were Arizonans. A vast majority were retired, nearly 4,500 of them, bolstered by the self-employed and small business owners.

Only one PAC donated to Rogers: the Save America PAC gave one contribution of $5,000 in January.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Maricopa County Transportation Tax Advances to House Floor

Maricopa County Transportation Tax Advances to House Floor

By Corinne Murdock |

The House Transportation Committee approved SB1356, legislation to give Maricopa County residents a vote for or against a transportation tax and excise tax plan. The committee passed with bipartisan support, with the exception of three: State Representatives Neal Carter (R-Queen Creek), Kevin Payne (R-Peoria), and Leo Biasucci (R-Lake Havasu City).Two didn’t vote either way: State Representatives Brenda Barton (R-Payson) and David Cook (R-Globe). 

Arizona Free Enterprise Club Vice President Aimee Yentes expressed opposition to the bill, noting that 40 percent of the money was allocated for public transit. Yentes explained that the 1985 transportation tax plan was successful because it built freeways, but that over the decades the plan shifted from essential infrastructure like roads and freeways to “transit,” despite a steep, increasing decline in its use. That number sits at half a percent currently. 

“As we’ve seen post-COVID, that ridership number has fallen off a cliff. There are actually more people who don’t own a vehicle that take a car to work than actually use public transit. That’s kind of astonishing,” said Yentes. 

Yentes also noted that the bill sets aside funding for something already covered by statute: “regional programs.” She said the definition of that term was problematic because it doesn’t distinguish street intersection improvements but, rather, “arterial roads and regional programs.”

“It really is a catch-all that can be used to siphon off local city slush funds for whatever: complete streets, air quality,” said Yentes. 

The bill sponsor, State Senator Tyler Pace (R-Mesa) said that the bill’s rejection, either by the legislature or by Maricopa County voters, would necessitate the Arizona legislature to find the funds for transportation projects themselves. Pace insisted that the committee members shouldn’t nitpick at the provisions of the bill because the greater good concerned Arizona’s legacy of quiet, fast roads superior to those of other states. 

State Representative Richard Andrade (D-Glendale) compared SB1356 to previous efforts to expand and extend the state’s two major highways: Loop 101 and the I-17. Andrade argued that creating more public transit like light rails would increase their use.

Those in opposition explained that they weren’t confident this bill would actually meet transportation needs. Carter said that he supported infrastructure, but said that the legislation had room for improvement. Carter said his reservations included provisions for expenditures related to air quality, and the expansion beyond a 20-year authorization.

Payne expressed displeasure that legislators impacted by the bill weren’t included in stakeholder meetings. He explained that his constituents were requesting another bus route down Bell Road, for example, and that he couldn’t vote for the bill in good conscience because of that.

Echoing Carter and Payne’s statements in his “no” vote was Biasucci. Biasucci argued that the legislature should utilize its $4 billion in surplus instead of passing the costs on to taxpayers.

“I think this is, really, how it needs to be done: the money should come from the general fund to be spent on major projects, I’m talking billions of dollars’ worth, in my opinion. For me, when we’re sitting on this huge surplus, it’s hard for me to say, ‘Yes, I agree with a tax increase or an extension,’” said Biasucci. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Arizona AgFest 2022 Draws Lawmakers’ Attention To Vital Industry

Arizona AgFest 2022 Draws Lawmakers’ Attention To Vital Industry

By Terri Jo Neff |

Several state lawmakers spent last Wednesday afternoon attending the 2022 Arizona Farm Bureau AgFest on the lawn of the House of Representatives.

The Arizona Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm and ranch organization, and serves as the industry’s voice. The Jan. 19 event showcased the state’s $23.3 billion agriculture industry to legislators.

Among those attending was Sen. Sine Kerr, who chairs the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Energy, and Water.

Kerr is no stranger to the Ag business. She grew up in rural Buckeye and with her husband now owns a large dairy farm.

“Agriculture is essential to Arizona’s prosperity,” Kerr said at the event. “We all depend on the work our ranchers and farmer are doing for our state and country, and I will do my absolute best to always advocate for them at the state legislature.”

Some of the other lawmakers who attended AgFest were House Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham, as well as Reps. Leo Biasiucci, Frank Carroll, David Cook, and Joel John. Senate President Karen Fann was also on hand, as well as Sen. TJ Shope.

Members of the University of Arizona Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers, which has its own Arizona Farm Bureau chapter, also took part in the event.

In other Arizona Farm Bureau news, it was announced earlier this month that the organization earned the American Farm Bureau Federation’s New Horizon Award, which honors the most innovative new state Farm Bureau programs.

The New Horizon Award recognized the Arizona Farm Bureau’s partnership with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service last year to launch a conservation agriculture mentoring program. Stefanie Smallhouse, president of Arizona Farm Bureau, accepted the award during the Federation’s annual convention in Georgia.

Arizona Farm Bureau also won in all four Awards of Excellence categories for demonstrating outstanding achievements in Advocacy, Coalitions & Partnerships, Engagement & Outreach, and Leadership & Business Development.

League Of Arizona Cities And Towns Allowed Cook Review Of Glowing Editorials

League Of Arizona Cities And Towns Allowed Cook Review Of Glowing Editorials

By Corinne Murdock |

Taxpayer-funded League of Arizona Cities and Towns (League) apparently penned two opinion pieces on behalf of Pinal County mayors and supervisors praising Representative David Cook (R-Globe), email records reveal. What’s more, the League asked Cook to offer any edits and approve at least one of the pieces before they ran.

It appears the League’s primary lobbyist, Nick Ponder, contacted Cook about two opinion pieces for Pinal County officials: one on behalf of their supervisors, and one on behalf of their mayors. In emails obtained by AZ Free News, Ponder reached out to Cook for the final say on one of the pieces concerning Pinal County mayors. The subject line for some of the emails concerning that piece read: “Mayor’s Letter for Cook[.]”

The mayors’ opinion piece lionized Cook as a “brave legislator” who stood up against tax cuts and supported water sustainability.

“Thankfully, we have State Representative David Cook representing us in the Arizona state legislature. He is one of a handful of brave legislators with enough courage to stand up to the power brokers at the State Capitol in Phoenix. Rep. Cook is forcefully speaking out about the destructive impact the proposed tax cut will have on our rural communities and he is fighting to protect us. […] Equally important, Rep. Cook joins us in supporting policies which address our water challenges here in Pinal County. Securing long-term sustainable water solutions will ultimately cost the state billions of dollars. Considering Arizona’s water future and its pending costs, Rep. Cook is right to stand up and fight a permanent tax cut valued at nearly $20 billion over the next decade. Those are dollars the state will sorely need to fund future water solutions. We wish to make it perfectly clear to all our municipal residents: We stand with Rep. Cook in protecting our public safety budgets and bringing funding to Pinal County to help mitigate our state’s long term water shortage.” (emphasis added)

The League is funded principally by taxpayers. Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland, Coolidge Mayor Jon Thompson, Eloy Mayor Micah Powell, Florence Mayor Tara Walter, Globe Mayor Al Gameros, Hayden Mayor Dean Hetrick, Kearny Mayor Jamie Ramsey, Mammoth Mayor Patsy Armenta, Miami Mayor Sammy Gonzales, Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney, Superior Mayor Mila Besich, and Winkelman Mayor Louis Bracamonte were signed onto the letter.

Email records show that Ponder reached out to Copper Area News Publishers for publication in the Superior Sun, Copper Basin News, and San Manuel Miner. Arizona Capitol Times published the opinion piece.

In another email, Ponder forwarded Cook an email chain about the Pinal County supervisors’ opinion piece. Pinal County Communications and Marketing Director James Daniels had submitted the piece to the managing editor of the Casa Grande Valley Newspapers.

After that, Daniels forwarded the correspondence to others, including County Supervisors Association of Arizona Executive Director Craig Sullivan – he shared it with Ponder, who then shared it with Cook.

The piece focused on how much the Pinal County supervisors supported Cook.

“Representative David Cook has always fought to protect the interests of the residents of Pinal and Gila counties, whether by securing resources to build roads or to develop water supplies, and we are very grateful to see his hard work to ensure that any tax reduction package passed by the legislature is designed so that the state remains on solid financial footing going into the future,” read the letter. “We are very concerned that in the legislature’s desire to do something ‘big and bold,’ what will get lost is doing things right. Therefore, we applaud Representative Cook’s leadership to shape a tax package that strikes a wise balance – providing meaningful tax relief, reducing state debt, and ensuring the state has the resources to meet its obligations to Arizonans into the future.”

Pinal County Supervisor Steve Miller and Gila County Supervisor Tim Humphrey signed onto the letter.

The piece appeared in The Arizona Republic, Pinal Central, Copper Basin News, and Superior Sun.

AZ Free News inquired with the League about their involvement in the writing of these opinion pieces, as well as who initiated the idea to create them. The League’s administrative assistant confirmed that the appropriate staff members received our inquiries, but they didn’t respond by press time.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com