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March 3, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

Campaign Finance

  |   Video
  • Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett discusses the need for changes to Arizona’s campaign contribution laws in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited campaign contributions from corporations and labor unions.
  • Ken Bennett - Arizona Secretary of State
Category: Government

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Ted Simons: A recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court lifted limits on campaign ads paid for by corporations and labor unions. Here to tell us if that will require any changes to Arizona's campaign finance laws is secretary of state Ken Bennett. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Ken Bennett: Thank you. Good to be here.

Ted Simons: The impact of the Supreme Court ruling on limiting campaign -- lifting the limits on campaign --

Ken Bennett: Actually there are no limits.

Ted Simons: Impact on Arizona. What are you seeing?

Ken Bennett: Well, we don't know what we're going to see, which is why we're trying to put in place legislation to make sure that when corporations and unions, if they choose to weigh in directly with corporate general treasury funds, which they've never been able to do in Arizona, so it not only -- we not only didn't have any limits, it was completely prohibited. Corporations in union could not use their corporate general funds to advocate in elections for or against candidates. Some of them ended up going through and setting up political action committees and things like that. But now that the Supreme Court has said that that voice of those entities cannot be prohibited, and that they can weigh in with their own direct funds, it really is going to challenge us to come up with a reporting mechanism so that they can report to our office and then we can put immediately up on the website something that the voters will find meaningful to say, I just heard an ad yesterday for or against some candidate, and who is paying for that thing, or it sounded like it was coming from a place, I don't know, we normally don't hear from.

Ted Simons: As far as the reports are concerned, correct me if I'm wrong, your idea is $5,000 for statewide races, above $5,000 and above?

Ken Bennett: Yes. Well, the idea is instead of requiring these corporations or unions to register in a formal political committee realm like you normally do, and have you seven or eight reports that you have to keep track of, and reports throughout the year, what we're really looking for is a system where they'll be able to, within 24 hours of going to the people with a message, that they would simply report the threshold of $5,000 you're talking about is, we don't want them to report if they spend $50 somewhere. But at some point we have to say that if you spend at least $5,000 on a statewide race or $2500 on a legislative race, or a thousand at a local level, that you're going to report that information to -- in a very simplified, straightforward way, and you don't have to worry about prefiling other reports or worrying about reports after that fact. Every time you spend that threshold amount of money, though, you should tell the public, we’re corporation ABC, and we spent money in this race.

Ted Simons: You report within 24 hours of what? A check cashing, a commercial airing?

Ken Bennett: You report within 24 hours of delivering the message to the voters. So when something hits the radio waves, or the T.V., or is deposited in the –- when a mailer is deposited in the post office, it's not from the -- when you pay for it, because some may pay way ahead of time, decide not to do it after all, and so we thought that the main trigger is when the message is communicated to the voters.

Ted Simons: The idea of a false report being a felony, up to two years in jail, why is that important?

Ken Bennett: Well, it's important that we have a deterrent against just anybody getting on our system and saying, the -- with all due respect, with lack of a better organization, the Klu Klux Klan just weighed in and spent money to support candidate Jones, to just completely falsify and misrepresent that maybe candidate Jones is in alignment with that organization. So it's those very egregious situations where the felony kicks in. If somebody doesn't file their report within 24 hours or they get some of those little things wrong, the felony doesn't kick in except for the very fraudulent situations. Where somebody is misrepresenting who they're speaking for, or trying to really create a guise of supporting or opposing somebody to really affect them in a normal way.

Ted Simons: Is that delineation focused enough? Is that going to be clear enough for the law?

Ken Bennett: We're working on that. We have worked extensively with stakeholders, attorneys, of course, candidates, the parties. We've had several stakeholder meetings, we're going to try to make sure that we tie those things down as tight as they can or need to be. You never get it right, maybe the -- completely right the first time, so if we have to come in and tweak it a little bit down the road, we'll do that too. But we're going to try to have something in place for this fall so that when or if these corporations and unions start to advocate for or against candidates, that the general public -- this is really for the general public. So that they know who's telling me why this guy is so good or bad.

Ted Simons: And critics of your move here say that we don't need to know who's saying what. That anonymous advocacy has been a part of the country's history, and that it's not necessary and this is just a burden, and it -- they've got other ideas as to why this is being pushed as well. We can maybe get to those. But why is it important that we do know this?

Ted Simons: Well, I think most voters understand and respect that when someone is trying to influence their vote, the identity of the organization or person or group that's trying to influence their vote is very critical. If you get a campaign mailer at your house, and it says "vote for Mr. Jones," if Mr. Jones' campaign committee is mailing it to you, it's kind of important to know who is sending that. Conversely, if some enemy, or whatever, of Mr. Jones is sending you something that says, "this is the worst guy in the world," who is saying the message is pretty important? Yes, we have a history in the country of anonymous, the federalist papers and some of those things back when the country was being formed. But usually that was anonymous voices speaking on principles of how the government ought to be formed and put together. When it takes the form of directly advocating for or against a specific candidate, I think the voters want to and deserve to know who's sending them that message.

Ted Simons: So, again, when we talk about corporate speech and union speech that attempts to influence the outcome of a candidate election, that's what you're talking about. But what's the difference between influencing an election and just influencing opinion? Just educating the public? How do we balance that?

Ken Bennett: Well, in this bill, this would only apply if corporations or unions are speaking in specific elections. If they're just doing general voter education, or general public service ads, or whatever it is, if they're not speaking specifically about certain candidates, or for or against anyone in particular, then they're free as they always have been, to try to educate the public on whatever other issues they might want to weigh in on. But when it gets to specific individual candidates --

Ted Simons: So you don't see it necessarily as the critics would say there's a chilling effect here by knowing that Ted's Hamburger Hamlet is supporting this particular candidate, and anyone who thinks that candidate is a knucklehead -- do you know what I'm saying? I may not put money there, because I don't want to be publicly associated. But I still want to donate.

Ken Bennett: Well, if a corporate -- if a corporate entity or a union feels strongly enough that they want to use money out of their direct treasury, where they have full and complete control, and also that the public knows that they are doing whatever they do independent of the candidate's campaign, this is all based on the independent expenditure concept in campaigns in Arizona, where if a corporation or anyone else for that matter, kind of gets behind the scenes and agrees with a candidate, we'll spend millions of dollars promoting you, that's really a contribution to their campaign and should be reported as such. But if they are truly independent, and they're just using their own money to speak their own voice for or against any one candidate, they're free to do so. If they don't feel that strongly about it, that they can probably contribute $500 to the chamber of commerce or the good government committee or something somewhere, and that group can decide which candidate they may or may not want to help. But if they are spending their direct corporate funds, we think people ought to know who's behind it.

Ted Simons: All right. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Ken Bennett: Thanks.

How Governor Mofford Saved the Cactus League

  |   Video
  • Spring Training baseball is in full swing this month, and with half of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams, Arizona’s Cactus League is as strong as ever. But there was a time when Arizona might have lost the league if not for the actions of Governor Rose Mofford. Former Special Assistant to the Governor Geoffrey Gonsher and Cactus League historian Rodney Johnson tell us how Governor Mofford saved the Cactus League.
  • Geoffrey Gonsher - Former Special Assistant to the Governor
  • Rodney Johnson - Cactus League historian

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Ted Simons: Spring training baseball is in full swing this week. With 15 teams, Arizona's Cactus League is going strong. But there have been times when Arizona was in danger of losing the league. In a moment, we'll hear how Governor Rose Mofford stepped in to save spring training baseball back in the late '80s. As David Majure reports, it's a story that's part of an exhibit that reopened this past weekend.

David Majure: “Play ball: the Cactus League Experience,” tells the history of spring training baseball in Arizona. The exhibit opened last year in the Mesa Historical Museum with Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry signing autographs to raise money for the project. Now the exhibit has a new home - in Mesa's Arizona Museum for Youth. The exhibit has doubled in size since it opened a year ago. So the two museums joined forces to give it a new larger venue. Ultimately, the plan is to create a museum dedicated entirely to Arizona baseball.

Unknown woman: Kind of like a Cooperstown west for Arizona.

David Majure: In the meantime, the “Play Ball” experience is open for business. Visitors can still peek through knot holes to see the evolution of Arizona's spring training ballparks, they can wander among photographs and memorabilia that trace the history of Arizona's Cactus League. Among new additions to the exhibit, how former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford helped save the Cactus League at a time when its future was uncertain.

Ted Simons: And joining me now for more on this is Geoffrey Gonsher, who served as a special assistant to Governor Rose Mofford. The Cactus League was one of his special projects. And Rodney Johnson, a Cactus League historian who's writing a book about the league, he's also president of the Arizona chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research. Good to have you both on the program. Let's talk about the state of the Cactus League when Governor Mofford took office. What were you looking at there?

Geoffrey Gonsher: When Governor Mofford took office the Cactus League was on the verge of unraveling. The state of Florida was attracting our teams, and we would have lost a major economic industry in the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons: Was the Cactus League just not being fully appreciated as far as an economic impact? What was going on here?

Geoffrey Gonsher: The state of Arizona did not recognize the cactus league at the time as an economic value to the state. Because of what Governor Mofford did, she was able to communicate that to baseball teams, the Major League Baseball, and the people of Arizona.

Ted Simons: How much was the state of the Cactus League impacting Arizona's efforts to get a major league baseball team here?

Rodney Johnson: Well, the profile of Arizona was greatly enhanced by the cactus league being here. All of the -- throughout the existence of the cactus league, people in cold weather country would pick up their morning papers and be shoveling snow, and see pictures of palm trees, and people playing baseball in Arizona with datelines like Mesa and Phoenix. And it raised the profile such that people started thinking of Arizona as a baseball place.

Ted Simons: Was the league, though, saying, or overtly or covertly, if you can't keep the Cactus League, we can't trust you with a team?

Rodney Johnson: There was certainly that sentiment out there. And I think that was one of Governor Mofford’s biggest contributions, is she recognized that the Cactus League was more than just baseball, that it had such a great economic impact on Arizona.

Ted Simons: What did she do? What did the governor do to get this thing rolling and to get the Cactus League to where it is today?

Geoffrey Gonsher: The most important thing she did was to pull together a very strong Cactus League constituency that included all the cities, the teams, the mayors, the booster groups, and the fans. And she was ability to move force -- forward with a consolidated force to get things done.

Ted Simons: And this was a task force with ideas like taxing programs on tourists and these sorts of things this, is how these ideas got started?

Geoffrey Gonsher: Some of the revenue issues came from that task force. Other issues were that we needed to recognize the real value of Cactus League, and we hadn't done that previously.

Ted Simons: Was it -- were folks taken aback and the Cleveland Indians were a big impetus, because Florida decided they were going to make a push for them, and got them at the time. Did that wake everybody up, that particular team?

Geoffrey Gonsher: Absolutely. And the cubs were on the verge of leaving the Cactus League 20 years ago valued at $150 million a year for 30 days. That was bigger than most of the other industries in Arizona at the time.

Ted Simons: Compare and contrast the Cactus League with the Grapefruit League back then. Were we kind of the second fiddle to what they had going down there in Florida?

Rodney Johnson: Well, sure. We got -- had eight teams here, and the remaining teams, 24, I believe at the time, were in Florida. And so we were always the small guy, the small fry. In fact, the Cactus League didn't even grow to eight teams until 1969, from '47 to '69, they were just growing up and they stabilized in '69. And then 20 years later, we almost lost all the teams that we had.

Ted Simons: And I remember a time, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Angels train actually in Palm Springs?

Rodney Johnson: The Angels were in Palm Springs. We had the Padres in Yuma, we had -- we ended up with two teams -- three teams in Tuscon, and now all those teams are consolidating, everyone is moving to the Valley, and that's one of the most attractive things about the Cactus League, is the proximity of the teams to one another. We're going to have all 15 teams next year training right here in the valley.

Ted Simons: And that again was helped along by the Governor's actions back there. How much did she push on this?

Geoffrey Gonsher: She pushed very hard. She went directly to the Commissioner of Baseball, and the Commissioner of Baseball supported her position.

Ted Simons: And I was asking earlier about how important it was to show the cactus league was viable in order to get a Major League franchise, which happened, 10, eight, seven whatever it is years later. It was a factor, wasn't it?

Geoffrey Gonsher: It was a major factor. The governor was told if we could not keep Cactus League baseball, we were not entitled to a Major League team.

Ted Simons: Did that kick some rear ends around here a little bit, that information?

Geoffrey Gonsher: That caused a lot of people to rethink the issue, that's for sure.

Ted Simons: The stadium district, the taxing authority, and all these things, matching funds to build stadiums. How difficult was that to get those laws passed?

Geoffrey Gonsher: It's always difficult to get a law passed, but because of Governor Mofford's personality and influence, and the respect people had for Governor Mofford, people were responsive to what she wanted to get done.

Ted Simons: And we've got the Cactus League again doubled now in the next 18 years. To what it is right now, where the cactus league now is considered -- is the Cactus League top dog over the Grapefruit League?

Rodney Johnson: I think so. Half the teams are training in Florida, half in Arizona, but I can see us getting a couple more teams here. I think Minnesota and Houston are both prime targets.

Ted Simons: Houston, huh? That's interesting. I heard Minnesota, didn't hear Houston. Prime targets, yet Florida is eyeing the Cubs and eyeing them big-time. What do you make of this controversy with the Cubs perhaps playing Naples off Mesa?

Rodney Johnson: Well, I think that it would be short sight first degree we would let the Cubs get away and go to Florida. I know that there's a lot of financing issues still up in the air about getting the Cubs stadium, but all the teams should be lining up behind keeping the cubs here. It would be like the American league saying we'll let the Yankees go to the other league. The Cubs are the anchor of the Cactus League, and attendance doubles every time they come to play in the team stadium here now.

Ted Simons: What do you make of this controversy with the Cubs? How do you think the governor, Governor Rose Mofford, would have handled this?

Geoffrey Gonsher: The governor has already expressed her opinion, and what she has said is this is a state of Arizona issue. Everybody, every team ought to be working together.

Ted Simons: Does this particular controversy signal trouble for the Cactus League?
Geoffrey Gonsher: Absolutely. Because if the organization cannot work together, if there's conflict within the Cactus League itself, then some of the teams may decide to leave.

Ted Simons: Quickly, Cactus League in trouble? Is this an indication of trouble for the league?

Rodney Johnson: I think it could be deep trouble sign to let the anchor team leave would not be a strong move, of course.

Ted Simons: All right. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Geoffrey Gonsher: Thank you.

Rodney Johnson: Thank you, Ted.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • A mid-week legislative update with a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times.
  • Jim Small - Arizona Captiol Times
Category: Legislature

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Ted Simons: This week state lawmakers are focused on finding solutions to the state's budget problems. Here with the latest is Arizona capitol times reporter Jim Small. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us. Before we get start, are we going to see proposal, a hard formal proposal by the end of the week, do you think?

Jim Small: I think it's possible. I think that was the idea with cancelling committee -- normal committee hearings and focusing on the budget, was, OK, they'll be able to sit down with members, brief them on the proposal, finish tidying up loose ends on it and roll it out and ideally put it through committee and even take it to the floor by the end of the week was the initial plan.

Ted Simons: And that seems like it's still on track?

Jim Small: Well, it's not as on track as people would have hoped. Republican leadership I think was hoping to get things moving ideally yesterday. Would have been the day they would have liked to get bills filed and start the process. It takes three days to move bills through. Three consecutive days. So yesterday would have been the ideal day in order to get done by Thursday, so if they were to start today, it pushes it off either to Saturday or next week. So it remains to be seen what will ultimately happen.

Ted Simons: What do we know as far as details? Let's start with the idea working both fiscal year '10 and '11 together. That still going?

Jim Small: The idea is that both the -- about a $700 million deficit this year and about $2.6 billion for the upcoming year that begins in July. According to the governor's numbers. And by and large what they're doing is taking a lot of principles and a lot of the ideas and even frankly a lot of the specific cuts and maneuvers that were in the governor's plan from January and they're making some tweaks in order to either account for things that she wanted the legislature to do back in January that they didn't do with regards to sales tax and things like that. And also in order to get some other members on board.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, how similar is what you're seeing to what the governor proposed?

Jim Small: Most people say it's about 95-98% similar. There are some differences. They are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.

Ted Simons: The fiscal year '11 budget, we keep hearing that there are two trains on different tracks here. One if the sales tax fails, the other if it’s approved. Are we still seeing triggers if the sales tax fails?

Jim Small: That's the idea. And from -- by all accounts that seems to be at least from what legislators are saying, that seems to be the thing that's kind of holding up the process and keeping things from moving forward, is trying to make sure that the governor and the legislature agree on where to put those cuts. There's been a lot of talk that Governor Brewer was really looking at trying to put those cuts in education, K-12, and public safety. And -- K-12 and universities, and also on public safety, to make a mirror what the ballot proposal will be in May, because most of that sales tax money will be dedicated towards public safety and education. I talked to her spokesman yesterday, and he said that she really wants it, you know, to be -- to reflect the will of the voters. If the voters say, we don't want a tax, then those cuts necessarily should come from those areas.

Ted Simons: Basically here's what you're going to lose if you don't get the tax approved. Details again, big-time reduction in access, I should say, accessN enrollment eligibility. That's still on?

Jim Small: Correct. According to some documents that have made their way through the -- through capitol crowd, bits $385 million that would be taken out of access, mostly out of the enrollment.

Ted Simons: And there's still talk I would imagine that if that goes through there's going to be a legal challenge because it's not going to the voters.

Jim Small: Certainly democrats have said that they expect to see legal challenge on it. Even Republicans I think to a certain degree won't be surprised if there is a legal challenge. What's at issue is back in 2000, voters approved expanding the roles for access. And opening it up to 100% of the federal poverty level. Well, Republican lawmakers have looked at the statute, and they think they see wiggle room. It's supposed to be fund by tobacco settlement monies, or -- and anything that doesn't cover is supposed to be covered by the general fund or other federal monies where available. Their argument is look at the situation, that money is not available. That means we can go ahead and take it. One of the problems that could present itself is on that same ballot, that same year voters also approved a measure that would increase access rolls and limit the funding only to the tobacco tax settlement money. But because that one passed with a lower percentage of votes, than the more broad one that is currently on the books, that -- the other one won.

Ted Simons: Sounds like it's headed for the courts one way or the other.

Jim Small: Would I imagine.

Ted Simons: How about eliminating kids' care? Is that still on?

Jim Small: That is still part of the budget. It eliminates kids' care, it takes some of the money from counties that gets paid to counties to help them cope with some of the costs of running rural medical centers and taking care of folks out in other parts of the state.

Ted Simons: Department of juvenile corrections, still on the outs?

Jim Small: Yeah. That is still -- that's proposed to get rid of -- to be phased out by October, shifting the juveniles that are currently in the system to counties.

Ted Simons: And the graduate medical education, that money, gone?

Jim Small: There's a lot of cuts to it. Looks like somewhere in the order of $17 million in the current year, and $21 million in the upcoming year. So not entirely sure if that's going to be all of the money, but if it's not, it would be a lot of it.

Ted Simons: The idea of paybacks, using stimulus money, the governor using stimulus money to get some funds in to DOC and DES, is that in there?

Jim Small: There are some provisions to pay back some of these -- some of the agencies that are seeing these cuts to -- I think to make sure the cuts don't have some unintended consequences. Especially in public safety areas like DOC.

Ted Simons: That's more governor than legislature right there?

Jim Small: It was something she had proposed in her original budget in January, and it looks like it's included in the current proposal.

Ted Simons: Are you -- are you hearing much input from rank and file -- first of all, is there any input whatsoever from any democrat anywhere?

Jim Small: The formation of this plan that there really hasn't been any input. Republicans will be quick to tell you that they've given democrats ample opportunity to be involved, democrats have just rejected that idea and they've said we want to be involved, but on our own terms.

Ted Simons: What about Republican rank and file? Has it still been a closed, behind-doors secret meetings, if you will?

Jim Small: Yeah. Leadership put this budget together, house and senate leadership, in combination with the governor's office, put this package together. It's being disseminated to Republican lawmakers, but it is being done so behind closed doors, and it has not as we said earlier, hasn't been normally -- formally introduced.

Ted Simons: Very good. Jim, thanks so much for joining us.

Jim Small: Thank you.