Monday, February 09, 2004

Special Interests Bankroll Effort to Repeal Arizona Campaign Finance Reform
A slew of developers and big business interests have chipped in five to ten thousand bucks a piece to repeal Arizona's campaign finance law. You can view the campaigns financial disclosure report here. Here's a link to the individual contributors.

Looking at just the first one, we find J.R. Norton company giving $5000. J.R. Norton is a agricultural company run by Jon R. Norton the Third. Norton served as the US Deputy Secretary of Agricultural affairs in the 1980s and was accused of trying to corporatize farming and run many small farmers out of existence. He's quoted as saying

"while America has 2.3 million farms at present, the most efficient American agriculture would require lass than half a million farms. If free-market forces were allowed to operate, agriculture would become consolidated into fewer, more efficient farms, the way huge retail chains have replaced mom and pop grocery stores." Just what we need, the Walmartization of family farms.

In May 2003, his Norton Farms in Blythe, California got its waste discharge requirements terminated. Here's a 1981 lawsuit against him for illegally firing his lettuce pickers because they wanted to form a union. In 1988, agricultural labor relations board staff concluded that Norton owed his farmworkers some $850,000 for illegally firing them because they wanted to unionize. Norton has has sat on many corporate boards, including Terra Industries, the Appolo Group, Shamrock Foods, and Pinnacle West (which runs nuclear power plants and has real estate holdings.)

A quick search here at the Federal Elections Commission indicates that John Norton of Paradise Valley, AZ has given at least $23,700 in contributions to federal candidates and parties from 1998-2003.

Suffice to say that John R. Norton the Third is not like the rest of us. He's a powerful, wealthy man, who knows how to spread his political influence around. If he doesn't like a reform law, maybe that's a sign that it is working as intended.

The anti-reformers say they want to save the taxpayers the money needed to fund the program. But somehow that just isn't too convincing coming from folks who tend to have a lot of business to do with government and who are finding it's harder for them to elect lackeys to do their bidding when other candidates have a chance to compete on a level playing field. Plus, some of the money is from a surcharge on traffic and criminal fines, so its not like ending that will save honest taxpayers a dime.

The campaign brags here in the Arizona Republic that they are flattered by the outpouring of grassroots support for their initiative. But then they admit that the only way they are gathering signatures is by paying circulators to do so. Their financial disclosure indicates that many of their payments are for signature gathering, or else to pad the pockets of consultant Nathan Sproul. That doesn't exactly sound like people are beating down their doors to sign their petition.

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