O what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive –Sir Walter Scott
The required campaign financing reports for the Yes on Pima County Bonds campaign are just being made public, and they show a tangled web of connections among Southern Arizona’s economic elite. The Yes campaign, which has just launched a small donor contribution campaign, started out with over $90,000 collected over a two-month period.
Diamond Ventures, which did not respond to requests for information, provided the most money, $25,000. Coming in at $15,000 each were Tucson Medical Center, Banner Health Corporation, and CopperPoint Insurance. The Campus Research Corporation, which runs the University of Arizona Tech Park, donated $10,000, Cox Communications $8,000, Sundt Construction $5,000, and the Western National Parks Association, $2,000.
Individual donations ranged from $2 to $250. A curious contribution, actually three totaling $57, came from SIMG, Inc. The Strategic Issues Management Group, run by former Senator DeConcini aide David Steele, received $7,635 from the Yes campaign for public relations work, including setting up the slick Yes website. Other SIMG clients have included Supervisor Sharon Bronson, the Canamex Coalition, Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Raytheon, TMC, University of Arizona, and Arizona Dept. of Transportation.
Other “small” donors, most giving $100 or $250, represent a cross-section of Tucson’s upper class and their pet causes. Michael Varney runs the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce. Diana Rhoades runs Strategies 360, a public relations firm specializing in “navigating” government and “persuading” elected officials. Sheldon Clark, another public relations consultant, works with Fortune 500 companies. Ann Maley-Schaffner works with SVP Tucson to coordinate “engaged philanthropists” like Karla van Drunen Littooy who donated more than $100 to the Friends of Chamber Music.
Some, like PAWS chair Kristin Almquist, are tied to other bond campaigns. Others are directly connected to bond project recipients. These include YMCA president Dane Woll, Tucson Symphony Board member Barbara Levy, Reid Park Zoo’s Nancy Schlegel, Sherry Hoskinson from Tech Launch, part of the UA Tech Park consortium, Carolyn Campbell, who heads the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection that makes decisions about open space acquisitions, and Patricia Engels, a board member on Banner’s Alzheimers Foundation. Jannie Cox hangs out at the Southern Arizona Leadership Conference. Not to leave anyone out, Restauranteur Benjamin Galaz donated $200.
The No campaign, Taxpayers Against Pima Bonds, has no corporate support and has raised less than $5,000 through small donations. Campaign Manager Gini Crawford says, “The people are our committee….”
AT THE TROUGH
As previously reported, a number of those described on the Yes website as “major” funders have a direct interest in the bonds passage, as do some of the “minor” funders. Banner Health would get an $18 million expansion of its south campus. The UA Tech Park would get a $10 million road and a $20 million building along with a $6 million Y.
The $30 million Sonoran Corridor project in the bond measure would provide Diamond Ventures with a highway close to two planned developments, Rockin’ K and Swan Southlands. Diamond is also a frequent seller of vacant land to the county for Davis Monthan and for open space.
Other donor connections are now visible. Sundt Construction obviously wants a piece of the action, as does workers’ compensation insurance company CopperPoint. The Western National Parks Association is in line for a piece of an $18 million Regional Orientation Center.
Some connections are less clear. The Sonoran Corridor, considered by some to be a back-door link to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s proposed Avra Valley route for Interstate 11, will benefit Raytheon, along with the airport and UA Tech Park. The Yes campaign’s treasurer is retired Raytheon Chief Financial Officer Steve Eggen. Eggen is also a board member at Sun Corridor Inc., formerly Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO). Yes chair, and Bond Advisory Committee chair, Lawrence Hecker is Sun Corridor’s attorney.
Tucson Medical Center just last year was approved for $31 million in bond money. Perhaps they are merely expressing their gratitude, although TMC’s Government and Communications Project Manager Rhonda Bodfield said the medical center donated because they see a “direct public health link in every one of the questions facing voters… Economic development and tourism are crucial in counteracting poverty, which is so strongly correlated with poor health outcomes. Parks encourage healthy, active lifestyles. Strong, safe neighborhoods give residents the confidence to get outside and improve their physical health. Open space is an important facet in community wellness.”
UNTANGLING THE WEB: I-11
Perhaps one of the keys to untangling the web is the Sonoran Corridor, a three-phase interstate highway project championed by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry that appears to be in violation of a Board of Supervisors 2007 resolution opposing any I-10 bypass in the county. Setting aside the arguments about whether public money — $30 million — should go to support private corporations, there is at least a rationale for the east-west northern leg of the Sonoran Corridor. That would link Raytheon, the airport and UA Tech Park directly to I-10, and almost to I-19. It also runs along the northern edge of Diamond Ventures planned Rockin’ K development.
Phase 2 gets trickier. It drops south alongside Diamond Ventures planned 3000 acre Swan Southlands development, and then Phase 3 goes west to I-19 at Pima Mine Road, duplicating an already-in-the-works El Toro Corridor being worked on by ADOT and Sahuarita. That I-19 connection links directly to Huckelberry’s proposed 56-mile Avra Valley I-11 route. The Sonoran Corridor was labeled “I-11” on early maps from the County Administrator’s office. It’s a piece of the “Canamex Highway.”
That as-yet-unbuilt I-11 is supported by a bipartisan group of Arizona legislators, led by Senator John McCain. McCain has introduced legislation to name the Sonoran Corridor part of the interstate system, a major step towards legitimizing Huckelberry’s Avra Valley route. Reading the Corridor Justification Report from ADOT, it becomes clear that I-11 is about exporting American jobs across the border.
The plan is for research and development in Arizona and Nevada, with manufacture and assembly in Mexico. I-11 would also serve the Mexican Port of Guaymas which is expanding to attract ships away from the West Coast. That would cost a lot of good American jobs. ADOT has just begun a three-year Tier One Environmental Impact Study from Wickenburg to Nogales, diverting $15 million from approved projects to fund the study.
Residents of the Avra Valley opposing the “Huckelberry Highway” cite ADOT’s own numbers that double-decking a few miles of I-10 would do everything the planners want at one-third the cost. That would save taxpayers nearly $2 billion. Critics believe it was no accident that politically popular road repairs and the Sonoran Corridor are in the same bond measure, Proposition 425.
Wilford (Wil) Cardon is a multi-millionaire real estate investor based in Mesa. He self-funded his unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate against Jeff Flake in the 2012 Republican primary and ran for Arizona Secretary of State in the 2014 primary. Prominent on his campaign committee were Don Diamond and Diamond Ventures president David Goldstein.
Cardon’s companies own large chunks of vacant land in the path of Huckelberry’s Avra Valley highway. According to Pinal County records, Cardon’s BOA Sorte Company owns 175 acres in the Casa Grande area. That acreage is in the area of the Hunt Highway, expansion of which has been a “top priority” for the county.
In Pima County, Arizona Corporation Commission and County Assessor filings show that Cardon’s companies own at least eight parcels with over 1500 acres along various parts of Sandario Road – near Amway, Picture Rocks, Manville, Ajo and Valencia Roads. Clearly, Cardon stands to make a chunk of money if the Avra Valley highway goes forward.
Cardon also serves on the board of Banner Health Corporation’s Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa; his parents donated $10 million to found the facility. It’s a small world for the one percent.
Come back tomorrow for the rest of the story.