The fiercely contested Republican primary in the district that includes Rim Country has lurched into allegations that an out-of-state, ultra-conservative Super PAC is trying to “buy” the seat with a distorted advertising blitz.
Congressman Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) last week blasted the reported $619,000 the Club for Growth has spent on behalf of Lake Havasu City State Senator Ron Gould.
Moreover, critics of Gould have filed a complaint against him with the Federal Elections Commission, claiming Gould used $14,000 in campaign funds from his state legislative war chest to pay Bluepoint Consulting, a political firm handling his congressional campaign that also has close ties to the Club for Growth.
Gould did not return calls seeking comment on the race prior to press time. He has the endorsement of State Sen. Sylvia Allen, who currently represents Rim Country but opted not to run for re-election.
Gosar’s own campaign spending reports show that he has raised nearly $1 million, a third of it from Political Action Committees and only 8 percent from small donors.
The Club for Growth has spent millions, mostly on pushing the Republican Party as far to the right as possible, with most of its spending focused on Republican Primary struggles. The group’s sources of funding remain largely hidden as a result of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have allowed so-called “Super PACs” to spend as much as they like, so long as they don’t directly coordinate expenditures with the candidate they’re supporting. Launched by several wealthy Wall Street bankers and investors, the Club for Growth has repeatedly funded strident election challenges of Republican moderates and managed to amass a strong win/loss record in those primary races.
The Club For Growth has also become an issue in the bitter Republican Primary battle for the Arizona seat in the U.S. Senate being vacated by Sen. Jon Kyl. In that case, the pro-business group is supporting Rep. Jeff Flake. His leading opponent, Mesa businessman Wil Cardon, has said the Super PAC is trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat.
The dispute in Congressional District Four has pitted two extremely conservative candidates against one another in a district with such a lopsided Republican majority that the winner of the Democratic Primary will face daunting odds in the general election. Democratic candidates include Mikel Weisser and Johnnie Elbert Robinson. Weisser is a teacher, poet, performer and political activist. Robinson’s Web site says he has run a mentoring program for troubled teens and in congressional offices.
Redistricting left the heavily Democratic southern Gila County in Congressional District One, now centered on Flagstaff and including the largest Indian Reservations in the state.
Flagstaff dentist Gosar two years ago ousted incumbent Democrat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in the old Congressional District One. Redistricting shifted northern Gila County into Congressional District 4, which includes Prescott, Sedona, the Verde Valley and most of Western Arizona — all the way from Yuma to the Utah border. That prompted Gosar to rent a house in Prescott so he could run in the new district.
Gosar was considered one of the “Tea Party” freshmen, who fiercely resisted budget compromises and supported a House Republican budget that would have cut taxes, slashed social spending, dramatically reduced spending on things like AHCCCS and turned Medicare into a private insurance plan with partially subsidized rates.
Gould is an ultra-conservative lawmaker best known in the last legislative session for introducing a bill to require colleges to allow students and faculty to carry guns on campus. He also walked out of the Senate to protest the Republican decision to put a temporary one-cent sales tax on the ballot to avert more than $1 billion in cuts, mostly to education. Criticized by even some Republican colleagues for his fierce criticisms and independent stances, the Club for Growth’s profile of him on its Web site pointed out that the Goldwater Institute rated Gould as the most conservative Arizona State Senator. By contrast, the Club for Growth said Gosar supported the bills the Club backed only 63 percent of the time.
That profile also says that Gosar voted to support the left-leaning, community organizing and voter registration group ACORN. However, Gosar said that ACORN lost its federal funding as a result of questions about its voter registration tactics before Gosar even took office.
Both Gosar and Gould have supported drastic restrictions on abortion, repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, deep reductions in federal spending and adherence to the immigration control provisions of SB 1070.
One of Gould’s early campaign ads pictured him loading a copy of the Affordable Health Care Act into a skeet shooter and blasting it on the wing with a shotgun.
The Club for Growth has unleashed a barrage of ads challenging Gosar’s conservative credentials, especially for his support of the House leadership in voting to raise the ceiling on the national debt to avoid a default. The Republican leadership agreed to authorize payments on already existing debt in return for the establishment of a “Super Committee” charged with coming up with $2.5 trillion in cuts. The committee failed, which could trigger automatic cuts in defense and domestic spending and the expiration of existing income tax cuts that some economists fear will throw the struggling economy back into recession.
The anti-Gosar ads depicted that vote as an increase in the national debt, although it merely authorized the government to make promised payments on debt already incurred.
“The outside special interest group is buying the votes of rural Arizonans for Ron Gould,” said Gosar. “That may be how things work back east, but this is not the Arizona way.”
Gosar’s campaign manager, Barrett Marson, said “Wall Street Ron and his East Coast friends can’t seem to get their facts straight. This is just another example in a series of lies and distortions that Ron Gould and his surrogates have been spreading through rural Arizona. It also shows just how desperate they are to try to buy this election.”
The complaint filed against Gould with the Federal Elections Commission by George Nault of Bouse, Ariz., claims that Gould paid Bluepoint Consulting $14,000 just before he resigned his state Senate seat to run for Congress. Federal law forbids the conversion of money donated for non-federal campaigns into money used to run for Congress.
Bluepoint also consults with the Club for Growth. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that such Super PACs can spend an unlimited amount of money without disclosing their donors so long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate they’re supporting. Super PACs working for both parties at almost all levels have routinely evaded that restriction by hiring the same consultants and having political operatives move from campaign staffs to PAC staffs.
Gosar has reported raising $872,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He has spent about half of that amount so far. About 8 percent has come from small contributors, 57 percent from large contributions and 33 percent from Political Action Committees. The top five industries in terms of support include health professionals, PACs, retirees, food processing and sales and casinos and gambling interests, according to the compilation by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The same group reported that Gould had raised $187,995, but that tally doesn’t count the independent expenditures by the Club for Growth. Of the money raised by Gould directly, 24 percent has come from small contributors, 74 percent from large contributors and 2 percent from PACs.
Rick Murphy, a Lake Havasu City businessman also running for the seat, has raised no money but donated $9,600 to his own campaign.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu had raised $436,000 before he dropped out of the race. Once the frontrunner in the polls, Babeu dropped out amidst allegations released by his gay lover who was an illegal immigrant that the sheriff had threatened to have him deported if he revealed their relationship. Babeu denied the allegation, but dropped out in the resulting hailstorm of publicity.