Republican Doug Sposito has triggered a flow of campaign funding in Legislative District 30, where four Republicans are competing for two House seats in the Sept. 2 primary.
Sposito, who is one of four Republicans running for the two House seat in Legislative District 30 that are being vacated by Reps. Marian McClure and Jonathan Paton, filed a “trigger” report last week revealing that he had spent more than $25,500 on his campaign.
Sposito is raising funds from private contributors; under the Clean Elections rules, that means his publicly funded GOP opponents, Sharon Collins and David Gowan, have also received roughly $4,500 in matching funds on top of the $19,382 that they got initially received from Clean Elections.
Left out in the big cash giveaway is the fourth Republican in the race, Frank Antenori, who decided to raise money from private contributors rather than use public funds.
Antenori, a former Green Beret who made his debut on Southern Arizona’s political stage two years ago in the five-way GOP primary to replace retiring congressman Jim Kolbe, is mad as hell about Sposito’s sudden spending spree. He complains that his GOP opponent has sold out after holding a fundraiser in Phoenix.
“He’s obviously sold out to special interests groups, most of which are from Phoenix,” says Antenori. “And the most disappointing thing is that I had thought that Mr. Sposito had principles and it’s obvious now that he doesn’t. He sold those principles to the highest bidder.”
Sposito, who had raised $6,064 as of May 31, says most of his newfound dollars came right from his own checkbook. The Sonoita-area homebuilder has lent his campaign $12,000.
“I haven’t sold my soul to anybody,” says Sposito, who lost a bid for the Legislative District 30 seat in 2004. “It’s unfortunate if Frank has decided to go negative in this campaign. It had been a good, honest run for office for all of us.”
Sposito adds that the Phoenix fundraiser only netted him somewhere around $2,500.
“Phoenix was a pretty dry well,” says Sposito, who adds that fundraising in general “has been going well” and he’s “confident that individual contributions will come in” so he’ll be able to repay the money he has loaned his campaign.
Antenori, who says he’s raised about $15K for the campaign, stood by his comments after hearing that Sposito had lent his campaign the money.
“Now he’s on the defensive, which tells me he has something to hide,” says Antenori, who adds that he’s raised almost of all his money in Southern Arizona. “At least the people giving me money can vote for me.”
But Antenori concedes that Randy Graf, the Republican lawmaker who represented District 30 for one term between 2002 and 2004, wrote a letter to Maricopa lobbyists asking for contributions to the Antenori campaign—a pitch that pretty much went nowhere.
“The people who called me back, I told them where I stood on the issues and they decided not to give me money,” he says.
Antenori suggests some Republican businessmen are backing Sposito because he supports Stop Illegal Hiring, an initiative on the November ballot that would revise Arizona’s employer-sanctions law. Antenori says the initiative would weaken the regulations created by the state Legislature last year.
Sposito, a business owner himself, says he supports the initiative because it fixes some flaws in the current law, such as prohibiting anonymous complaints against businesses.
“I think businesses need to be accountable if they’re not following the law,” Sposito says, “but I think (the initiative) puts in innocent-until-proven-guilty provision, which I think businesses need.”
Antenori says the business leaders supporting Stop Illegal Hiring, which include local auto dealer Jim Click and Maricopa County McDonald’s magnate Mac Magruder, are working with political consultant Nathan Sproul, who is also running a hard negative campaign against state Rep. Russell Pearce in Maricopa County. That independent campaign, which has linked Pearce to Neo-Nazis and dredged up a 28-year-old court document that alleged Pearce beat and choked his wife, has some conservatives furious with Sproul.
Sproul is also advising Republican Tim Bee’s congressional campaign against Democrat Gabrielle Giffords. As a result, Antenori says the efforts to help Sposito down here could hurt Bee in November.
“It’s gonna kill Tim Bee,” Antenori says. “I really think it’s going to have fallout into the CD8 race because a lot of people are going to be pissed off at Sproul and Click.”
Antenori is particularly chapped about the matching funds going to his GOP opponents, Gowan and Collins.
“This is the shitty part about Clean Elections: This could theoretically get David Gowan elected (along with) Sharon Collins,” says Antenori. “The two of them basically don’t have, I think, the sharpness, the intellect and the resources to be an effective legislator. Because they’re going to get matching funds, less-than-qualified people are going to get that seat.”
Sposito is also getting a boost from the Cattlemen’s Association, which spent $6,868 on a mailer on Sposito’s behalf. Both Collins and Gowan are eligible for checks for that amount as well, but Antenori is shut out.
Antenori says the Cattlemen Association is out to get him because he’s said that too many ranchers are paying too little to lease state trust land.
“I don’t think we’re getting maximum usage out of a lot of that land and there are people lining the pockets at the expense of kids in Arizona public schools,” Antenori says. “They’re afraid I’m going to raise there grazing fees. They’re afraid of me.”