A sleazy flyer from a dirty money group arrived at Tucson voters’ homes last week, distorting candidate Steve Farley’s record, and boosting his primary opponent Regina Romero. Democrats at a meeting I attended were disgusted as they passed around cell-phone pictures of the flyer.
The appalling element is that it benefited Romero, who campaigns as “the clean election candidate,” who doesn’t take PAC money. The claim rings false when you realize the PACs have spent $510,506 on her campaign. The amount of money spent on the local mayor’s race is unprecedented.
Democrats were quick to react.
“It puts the lie to her claim that she’s a clean candidate,” said former Pima County Democratic Party Chair Don Jorgenson. “She did not disavow any outside PAC supporting her. She did not disavow any support from these outside shadowy groups that have attracted all this money. They are putting out the worst misleading mailer and attack ads we’ve ever seen in Tucson.” He spoke on KVOI radio AM1030 on Aug. 19.
He observed that that the Chispa Arizona PAC is supporting Romero in the mayor’s race. It is headed up by Laura Dent, Romero’s former chief of staff. Chispa Arizona has spent $231,535 to promote Romero.
Broadcaster John C. Scott said on the air, “If you nominate Regina Romero to be the Democratic nominee for mayor of Tucson, you are making a big mistake. This would be an unmitigated disaster. She is not qualified to be the mayor of this town. Her campaign, with this dark money, makes her the queen of dark money, pumping in over $300,000 on top of her ‘clean’ election money.”
The ocean of PAC money contrasted with Romero’s “clean candidate” statement prompted columnist Tim Steller to write ‘Clean’ label doesn’t fit PAC-aided mayoral candidate Regina Romero in the Arizona Star.
Ironically, Romero has endorsed the Outlaw Dirty Money campaign, which would expose the people who originally earned the money and gave it to a PAC.
Of course, it is illegal for Romero to coordinate with any of the PACs. No PAC has directly donated money to her campaign. But it’s a fine distinction and many Democrats don’t see her as the “clean” candidate.
Rebuttal of a nefarious smear
The “Mask comes off” flyer was sent by the “Institute for Policy and Politics,” which was registered on Aug. 2, apparently just to send out the flyer. It is a classic dirty money PAC, registered to Dominic Aleman of Phoenix. There is no phone number, email or website listed for the nefarious group.
“Turning a progressive record against me is outrageous. It’s typical Koch brothers’ politics that they usually run against a Democrat in a general election. This stuff is ugly and it’s unbelievable that Phoenix would spend this much money to get involved in our race. It’s all the more reason for people to stand up and elect someone who will stand up for Tucson in the mayor’s office.”
In a radio interview on Aug. 19, Farley rebutted the four lies in the flier that said:
“Voted against School Reform for tax credits for disabled students.” Farley responded, “that was a voucher bill from Rick Murphy [R-Phoenix] that tried to take money from public schools and shift them into unaccountable private schools. Every Democrat [in the legislature] voted against that.”
“Opposed a minimum wage increase.” Farley countered, “The measure they’re talking about is a Republican attempt to distract voters from the real minimum wage increase that passed. The Republican proposal would have frozen minimum wage at $7.65 an hour and never had any adjustment for inflation. So yeah, I voted against it as did all of the Democrats.”
“Voted against Free Speech on College Campuses.” Rebutting the lie, Farley said, “This was an attempt by conservatives to regulate speech on campuses, sponsored by Paul Boyer, a Republican. And all Democrats voted against it including me. And it was opposed by LUCHA.”
“Vehemently opposed law to bring more teachers into the Classroom.” Refuting the smear, Farley said, “This is interesting. That was Sylvia Allen’s bill last year [She is a Republican from Snowflake, AZ]. It was her effort to eliminate teacher accreditation in Arizona and it was opposed by all the teachers and the AEA and voted against by all Democrats.”
“What’s upsetting about is that it’s twisting the truth to low information voters who might not know what the truth is,” Farley said.
Romero campaign attacked too
In response, Romero’s campaign manager, Nate Sigal, said, “Of course we hope this campaign returns to the issues. We have used the resources within our control to promote our positive vision for the City of Tucson, not petty attacks on our opponent(s). The same cannot be said of every candidate in this race. Unfortunately, we have no control over outside efforts just as our opponents have no control over the outside efforts attacking our campaign, including the most recent “Total N-Tegrity” mail piece.
Sigal was referring to an anti-Romero flyer headlined “Regina Romero Doesn’t Care Where Your Tax Dollars Go.” It is a crudely-made, semi-literate screed complaining about streets, police and fire funding, tax breaks for developers and eviction rates — all blaming Romero.
However, this is not a dirty money effort, because the “Total-N-Tegrity Committee” lists its leader, a phone number, email address and website.
The chair is Luis Gonzalez, a former PCC School Board member, and someone with a long history against anyone associated with Rep. Grijalva, who endorses Romero. the address is 2307 W. Horseshoe Pl., a residential home west of I-10 and south of Grant.
The tragedy is that Tucson’s local races have now been corrupted. The total spent on the mayor’s race by all PACs and candidates approaches $1 million — a vast amount for a city of 262,000 registered voters. The dirty money adds an element of fraud and sleaze that Democrats find appalling.
John C. Scott summed up the situation with a quotation from Rudyard Kipling: “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.”