There is a famous American truism that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” It’s attributed to Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh, Democratic Speaker of the California Assembly from 1961 to 1966. Why is that quote important in a 2020 Arizona State senate race? Because candidate Wendy Rogers is boasting on her campaign Facebook page that she has raised $527,000. That’s a pile of cash, almost five times the amount reported by her opponent, Senator Sylvia Allen, and more than $375,000 than the amount reported by the Arizona Senate President, Karen Fann. Is Rogers that good a fundraiser or is there something more nefarious at work here?
An interesting thing has happened in the Legislative District 6 Senate Primary Race between incumbent, Education Committee Chair, and six-time winner, Senator Sylvia Allen, and her no legislative experience, perennial campaigner, Tempe carpetbagger, and five-time loser, Wendy Rogers.
Voters have been receiving numerous campaign mailers paid for by Wendy Rogers for AZ State Senate, headquartered in a UPS Store PO Box in Flagstaff, Arizona. None of these mailers call out Arizona Legislative District 6 by name. Then, all of a sudden, voters began receiving multiple “hit piece” mailers directed at Senator Allen, and paid for by Rural Arizona PAC from Washington, D.C. Well, who in the hell is Rural Arizona PAC from “The Swamp”, and why are they involved in the Arizona LD6 race? These “Swamp” mailers compare Allen to “Mini” Mike Bloomberg and proclaim that she “votes like a socialist democrat” and accuse Allen of being “a former lobbyist.”
To understand Rogers’ campaign money trail, it took a “deep dive” and extensive research into the depths of 1) the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) financial reporting; 2) the Arizona Secretary of State Elections financial reporting; and finally 3) the Center for Responsive Politics and its website, Open Secrets.org, a non-partisan, non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C. that tracks money in politics and effect on elections and public policy.
Rogers’ money trail starts in Aspen, Colorado with one of Colorado’s “top ten” political donors, Tatnall Hillman. Mr. Hillman is the son of John Hartwell Hillman, Jr. who made his billions from coal, steel, and gas. Mr. and Mrs. Hillman donated the maximum of $5,200 each, a total of $10,400, directly to the 2020 Rogers campaign in March 2019. Hillman also contributed $235,000 to the Washington, D.C.- based Rural Arizona (Federal) PAC, which in turn contributed $200,000 to the Washington, D.C.- based Rural Arizona (State) PAC, who then spent almost $100,000 on mailers, radio ads, and other campaign communications against Senator Allen. This kind of “pea-in-the-shell” or “dark money” game happens in national elections, not in rural Arizona state election races. This has allowed the Rogers campaign, with all its signage, mailers, radio ads, etc., to generate name recognition to influence “low-information” voters. Arizona voters have come to expect nothing less from Rogers since she can’t run on issues and policies because she doesn’t know them.
One more fact that should not go unnoticed by LD6 voters – more than $250,000 has been paid to Go Right Strategies of Orange Park, Florida for “professional consulting services.” Go Right Strategies, whose president is Rogers’ nephew Spence Rogers, has received more than twice the total amount of money raised by the Allen campaign. This kind of campaign finance nepotism has been practiced by Bernie Sanders and his wife.
A Rogers win in the primary race will result in a loss of the LD6 Senate seat to the Democrat in the general election. This, in turn, may cost Republicans the majority in the Arizona Senate, and more importantly, a loss of the Senate Education Committee Chairmanship.
It looks like a redux of both the 2016 and 2018 Arizona Congressional District One primary and general election races which resulted in the good people of rural Arizona being represented by a liberal Democrat.