GOP culture war smear campaign reduced to Ash

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

I previously reported on the GOP culture war smear campaign against the Democratic Tucson City Council candidates Sen. Jesse Helms alive and well in Tucson?, which was alleged to be based on "phallic imagery that some might consider pornographic."

The mysterious smear campaign has been solved. Here It Is: "Big Dick No. 1": Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash.

I have to agree with the assessment of Jim Nintzel and Margaret Regan of the Tucson Weekly, Bruce Ash and the Tucson Vision Committee are a Bunch of Dicks for pumping up a baseless art controversy:

You could hardly squeeze more GOP anxieties into one swollen story: Deadbeat local artists defiling the local fire station! An obscene painting of penises funded by local tax dollars! Homeland Security denied the office space needed to fight terrorism!

The only problem with this political wet dream: Not one of the claims is true.

"The 'story' exploded publicly last week, when Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash turned up on KGUN-9 News to accuse the City Council of funding an obscene artwork."

"The Tucson City Council authorized through another committee—a not-for-profit group—the expenditure of a lot of dollars for a piece of art called 'Big Dick No. 1,'" Ash told KGUN-9 reporter Joel Waldman.

About that "report." KGUN-9 news coverage of local politics is laughably bad and biased, but this was by far their worst transgression, as Jim Nintzel critiques in Is This a Daily Show Audition? KGUN's Comedic Coverage…

Back to the "story." It turns out that Bruce Ash is full of crap, as any astute political observer already knows. The old joke about "How do you know when he's lying? His lips are moving" has long been applied to Bruce Ash by local politicos.

After his prime-time appearance on KGUN-9, Ash now concedes that the show containing "Big Dick No. 1" took place when the City Council was controlled by Republicans Fred Ronstadt, Kathleen Dunbar and Bob Walkup and independent Carol West. (Ronstadt and Dunbar were beaten later that year by Democrats Trasoff and Uhlich.)

Caught with his pants smoldering, Ash is now backing away from his assertion that the current Democratic-controlled City Council had anything to do with "Big Dick No. 1." But he's still trying to tie the Dems to the museum.

After all, he points out, the City Council OK'd a deal to lease the Fire Department's vacated downtown headquarters to the museum for $1 a year. MOCA is set to take possession of the bunker-like building Dec. 1 and open to the public on Feb 6. Ash claims, without evidence, that the federal Department of Homeland Security wanted to lease the building after the Fire Department relocated to spiffy new digs on Cushing Street.

But City Manager Mike Letcher says flatly: "Homeland Security never wanted this building. … There's just no truth to that rumor."

Ash admits he has no way to substantiate his claims that Homeland Security wanted the fire station building.

"I'm waiting for some information to be presented to me," Ash says. "If I'm able to make it public, I will."

Ash also asserts that the Tucson Police Department wanted the space. Letcher says it's true that the police department, which has headquarters next door to the old fire station, did consider taking over the fire station lot—but that plan proved too costly.

TPD had planned to enlarge its building and demolish the old fire station to make way for a parking lot. But it would have had to pay a cool $1 million just for demolition. And it would have cost the police $52 million to expand their downtown building.

Instead, TPD added a new crime lab at the westside station on Miracle Mile at a cost of $39 million.

Once the city decided against demolition, it put out a call for bids to lease the empty building. MOCA was the only organization that stepped up. Not only would it take the white elephant off the city's hands, it would add a new museum space to a downtown desperately seeking attractions. (The museum has operated out of assorted temporary quarters in recent years.)

MOCA signed a five-year lease at a sweetheart $1 a year, but there are downsides. The city gave itself an exit strategy in the unlikely event it wants the building back. Whenever it wants, the city can terminate the lease by giving the museum one year's notice.

"It's a very low risk on the part of the city," Russell says. "It doesn't give us permanence."

In addition, museum director Russell estimates that the museum will have to spend about $80,000 to transform the firehouse into gallery space, with annual maintenance costs running into the six figures. The city had to pay at least $300,000 a year in maintenance and utility costs to operate the fire station 24 hours a day, according to Letcher.

For more fact checking of these claims, see Tea Party Tall Tales in Tucson.

Bruce Ash was representing an independent political committee, the Tucson Vision Committee, in his appearance on KGUN-9 News last week.

"In the KGUN-9 report, Ash showed off a draft of a political ad the committee had put together. The hit piece not only condemned the city council for supporting an art exhibition featuring obscene artwork but for blocking Homeland Security from leasing the downtown fire station. Ash says the committee has decided against running the ad"… except on Tea Party Republican biased KGUN-9, of course, as a news item. Way to get free political advertising for your attack ad, Bruce.

"The Tucson Vision Committee has filed only one campaign finance report, although another is due this week." We may learn who the other culture warriors are behind this smear campaign besides Bruce Ash.

By the way, a program note. Bruce Ash will be returning to Arizona Illustrated on PBS this coming Monday evening, replacing "Lyin' John" Munger who is off on his reverse Robin Hood quest to enrich the wealthy and to screw the poor as the next Governor of Arizona. Munger calls for big tax cuts, toll roads

Maybe the first question should be addressed to legendary broadcast journalist Bill Buckmaster, the host of Arizona Illustrated: "What the hell are you thinking?" Inviting Bruce Ash, the man who is at the center of this smear campaign controversy against the Democratic City Council candidates, to be a commentator on Arizona Illustrated? You don't see the conflict of interest here, Bill?

And is being a congenital liar a requisite for the job?

UPDATE: The financial disclosure statements are out and guess what? The Vision Thing: Independent Campaign Donors Revealed:

There are not a lot of people contributing to the Tucson Vision Committee, an independent political committee that is targeting Democratic candidates in the City Council election.

The committee had raised $39,000 from fewer than 10 contributors as of Oct. 14.

Roughly three-fourths of the money has come from developer Michael Goodman and Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash.

Goodman has given $10,000. He’s the mini-dorm developer who has raised the ire of homeowners in neighbors north of the university by pushing residential zoning regulations to the limit to build student housing. He has sued the current city council for passing regs that have slowed down his projects.

Ash has given $5,000 and loaned the committee $15,000.

Here’s the latest report if you feel like looking it over: thatvisionthing.pdf

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