“For nearly two decades the Strategic Issues Management Group, Inc. (SIMG) has used its expertise in developing creative and comprehensive strategies to assist clients in accomplishing their political and public policy goals.” ~ Strategic Issues Management Group
With seed money provided by former Pima County Supervisor Eckstrom, current chair of the Pima County Bond Advisory Committee, Larry Hecker, Deputy County Administrator Jan Lesher, Kristin Almquist and Rhonda Pina, the committee was formed in May 2014.
Selling higher taxes to the residents of the 8th poorest metropolitan are in the country is no easy task. Selling them on the idea that they are saving “pets,” is easier, but it is not cheap. It takes considerable cash to convince people that writing a blank check to Pima County will be put to the use you intended for it.
As evidence of the colossal task, out of the over $150,000 raised by the Pima County pro-Prop 415 PAWS committee, $75,000 was spent on the services of DWE Management Consultants Inc., operated by Dan Eckstrom and the “strategists” from Strategic Issues Management Group.
Another $5000 was spent at Old Pueblo Printers, owned by the Elias family, and over $2000 was spent by Moret & Associates, owned by Bruce Ash’s brother in-law Rich Moret, on radio ads.
According to campaign finance reports, Eckstrom’s company was paid $19,148.31 for “campaign consulting and coordination services.” The filings are mute as to as the specifics of his services.
However, his consultation on bond measures is not a new career path for Eckstrom. After leaving government under a cloud of controversy in 2003, Eckstrom became a consultant for Pima Community College. He worked as a consultant for PCC to lobby the County to place a $45 million bond for a health-care campus on the County’s bond request.
Strategic Issues Management Group was paid over $56,000 for services rendered including polling. Strategic is owned by David Steele, who was instrumental in promoting the Pima County Open Space bond in 2004, according to his company’s website. With political operatives like Adam Kinsey, who was the Executive Director of the Pima County Democratic Party, and friends like Emil Franzi, Steele’s Strategic Issues Management Group can make magic like turning pork into pets.
According to campaign finance reports, Strategic was paid $6,500.00 for one “Public Opinion Survey” in June. It appears they conducted another for which they were paid over $7000 in September. Every good strategist knows that it is important to test the waters frequently in a high stakes race to shift the message as necessary.
The day after the election, Arizona Daily Star columnist and Pima County apologist, Tim Steller, claimed that conservative talkers, who opposed the $22 million plus? bond, had little influence due to the fact that Prop 415 is currently passing with 58.62 percent of the vote. However, not even the most popular talkers could compete with the propaganda machine operated by Pima County administrator Chuck Huckleberry and his crew.
Chuck’s crew had $1.26 available to spend on each vote, while the Stop Prop 415 Committee had approximately $0.011 (1.1¢) per vote.
The opposition to Prop 415 was not made up of deep pocketed contributors that could be coerced to pay to play. Quite the contrary, few wanted to contribute to the anti-PAWS cause because they didn’t want to jeopardize their future as players in the Pima County game. That’s the Pima County way!