When my blog site was reconstituted after being down for two weeks four recent blogs disappeared. This is a reposting of one of the four “lost” blogs.
Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.
On March 28, 2017 Jessica Boehm and Jackee Coe presented extensive reporting in the Arizona Republic on campaign contributions from the firefighter unions. Here is the link:
It is a very thorough look at the issue but there was one area that was neglected and that was fire unions’ Independent Expenditures (IE) in the election process. A case in point was the recent Glendale election in the Yucca district between the incumbent who lost, Sammy Chavira, and me.
What’s an Independent Expenditure? As its name implies, it is an independent (of the candidate) political committee formed for the express purposed of supporting or opposing a candidate(s) or an issue. It is against the law for an Independent Expenditure committee to coordinate their efforts with those of the candidate. There is not supposed to be any communication between the two committees. However, this does not prevent a third party acting as a go between. That is difficult to prove legally.
These committees are required to register with the clerk of the jurisdiction in which they will be active. Sometimes they do. When they register at the state level it is often very difficult to obtain specific information about whom or what the committee is advocating for or against or how much they spent. It is much easier to obtain that kind of information at the city or local level.
Unfortunately, by law recently enacted by the state, all political committee reports must now be filed with the state. The reporting forms have been completely redone making it much more difficult to obtain information about who is doing what, for whom and for how much.
An Independent Committee could have an innocuous name such as Revitalize Arizona or Residents for Accountability. Some of the Independent Committees who participated in Glendale’s last election cycle were created by the fire unions. Their only purpose was to issue political material in support of their candidate and to oppose the contender. Often an Independent Committee doesn’t just do political mailings. They will create political signs and put them up as well. A good example is a political sign that accused me of “breaking the bank.” The signs were created by and funded by an Independent Expenditure committee expressly created by fire union members from a neighboring community.
My opponent in the last election raised over $81,000 with $19,000 (about ¼ of his total funding) contributed by fire unions as far away as Los Angeles, California. In addition, there were several Independent Expenditure committees, fire union affiliated, that spent in excess of $30,000 in political mailings in opposition to my candidacy and in support of my opponent. My opponent’s campaign committee mailed out at least 8 pieces and the Independent Committees mailed out another 6 pieces in addition to paying for campaign signs also opposed to my candidacy. My opponent even violated federal U.S. Postal law and placed postcards in support of his candidacy, unmailed with no postage, in residents’ mailboxes.
It appears safe to assume that between my opponent’s campaign committee and the Independent Expenditure committees, over $100,000 was spent to try to defeat me.
I raised a little over $13,000 for my campaign. Nearly every dime I received came from my district residents or Glendale residents in other districts. A few months after I won my bid for reelection, I received a check for $1,000 from a local fire union. I considered it a “concession” check, an acknowledgement that I had defeated a fire union candidate once again. I accepted the money and retired my campaign debt enabling me to terminate my political committee.
I sent out 2 mailings and shared expenses with Mayor Weiers’ political committee on another 3 mailings for a total of 5 mailings. The rest of the money I raised went for campaign signage.
My margin of victory was small – 46 votes – but I’ll take it. A win is a win, no matter the margin of victory. But why did I win when I was outspent over 7 times to 1? Several factors seemed to have led to his defeat. Perhaps the most important was his record of lack of service to our district residents. He failed to return constituent phone calls; his residents felt that he did not contribute their voice to city council discussions and debates; his lack of communication in terms of district meetings, having held only one in four years; and perhaps most importantly, the general public’s perception that he had abused taxpayers’ dollars for questionable travel.
Another factor may also have contributed not just to my opponent’s loss but to the loss of former Fire Chief Mark Burdick as a mayoral candidate in Glendale. The fire unions’ aggressiveness in local elections has caused a lack of trust in their institution. Traditionally, fire fighters are held in great esteem within their community. With the increase in the public’s use of social media the general public is more aware of the concerted effort by fire unions to get their preferred candidates elected. Their intrusiveness in the local elections process is more visible than ever before. The tried and true tactics used by these unions is also more visible to the public. For the first time in all of my election cycles I had people who called me to tell me about infractions they had seen committed by the fire unions. The aggressiveness demonstrated by the fire unions during campaigns is beginning to elicit public concern about their tactics and their motives. There is an increased awareness that a fire union’s agenda in terms of ever increasing salaries, benefits and pensions may not be in the taxpayers’ interest.
This is a new phenomenon and whether it is a harbinger of things to come in future election processes is yet to be seen but it may be that the bloom on the fire union rose is fading…
© Joyce Clark, 2017
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