Chamber’s Tucson Candidates Endorsements Raise AG Finding Doubts

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild with TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez at a Tucson Chamber VIP event

Earlier this month the Arizona Attorney General’s office found there was “not sufficient evidence” to move forward with an investigation of the Tucson Unified school District’s membership contribution to the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and its subsequent endorsement of Board member Adelita Grijalva in the 2014 General Election.

The Attorney General’s Office received a complaint after questions were raised about the timing of the membership contribution by Superintendent H.T. Sanchez and the Chamber’s endorsement of the anti-business Grijalva. The complaint alleged that the contribution, purchased with public funds, was made “for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections.”

The Attorney General found, that the Chamber is a corporation with a “separate, segregated fund for political activity,” and investigation saw no “indication that the Chamber of Commerce used the School District’s membership fee in order to influence an election.”

Now, the Chamber’s endorsements of candidates for Tucson City Council are raising doubts about the Chamber and the AG’s office. Last week the Chamber’s Southern Arizona Business PAC sent out a press release announcing their endorsement of Council members using Chamber employees and resources. According to the group: “In order to arrive at objective candidate endorsements based on pro-business and pro-jobs criteria, the Tucson Metro Chamber’s Candidate Evaluation Committee conducts written and oral interviews with incumbents and challengers. The Candidate Evaluation Committee is a balanced panel of local business executives with a keen sense of awareness of business, community and political issues. The Candidate Evaluation Committee then presents its interview scores to the Southern Arizona Business Political Action Committee (SAZPAC).”

The impression that only some funds are segregated for political use, while the organization’s resources are being used for political purposes is at the core of a request being prepared in which the AG’s office is urged to re-examine the evidence and move forward with an investigation into the TUSD complaint.