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The Skinny

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CASH FLOW

Republican Doug Sposito has triggered a flow of campaign funding in Legislative District 30, where four Republicans are competing in the Sept. 2 primary for the seats being vacated by Reps. Marian McClure and Jonathan Paton.

Sposito 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 matching funds on top of the $19,382 that they initially received from Clean Elections.

Left out in the big cash giveaway is the fourth Republican in the race, Frank Antenori, who, like Sposito, 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's obviously sold out to special-interest 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 all of his money in Southern Arizona. "At least the people giving me money can vote for me."

But Antenori concedes that he himself unsuccessfully went looking for money in Phoenix. Randy Graf, the Republican lawmaker who represented District 30 before making a failed run for Congress two years ago, wrote a letter to Maricopa lobbyists asking for contributions to the Antenori campaign.

"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 them in an innocent-until-proven-guilty provision, which I think businesses need."

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 Arizona 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's 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 their pockets at the expense of kids in Arizona public schools," Antenori says. "They're afraid I'm going to raise their grazing fees. They're afraid of me."


SAY IT AIN'T SO, JOE

When Republican Joe Higgins first announced his campaign against Pima County Supervisor Ann Day for her District 1 seat in the upcoming Sept. 2 GOP primary, the Tucson businessman said he was inspired to run because of the rising property taxes.

Those high tax bills might explain why Higgins is running his commercial trash-hauling business out of a property that he has listed as "owner-occupied residential" with the Pima County Assessor's Office.

In 2006, when Higgins bought the property at 1520 N. 15th Ave., along with a vacant lot next door where he parks his garbage trucks, he indicated on documents filed with the county that the house would remain owner-occupied.

That netted him a nice savings of more than 50 percent on the property-tax bill, because he was able to keep the residential tax rate and enjoy a special education tax rebate reserved for homeowners who live in their homes. Higgins paid $640 in taxes on that property during the last year; had he been paying the commercial rate, his bill would have been more than $1,300.

The assessor's office divides property into various types, including residential, commercial and vacant land. Property taxes are based on a certain percentage of the property's valuation. For residential, it's 10 percent of its assessed value; for commercial, it's 23 percent; for vacant land, it's 16 percent.

According to Pima County Assessor Bill Staples, it's up to the property owner to report any changes in the use of the property. Notices go out to property owners each year with the valuation information for the current and previous years, along with the property classification. The notice specifically asks the property owner to notify the county assessor if the use has changed.

Oddly enough, Higgins has the property listed on his campaign financial-disclosure form as a residential rental property. He told The Skinny that he rents the property to his garbage-collection business. But when asked why the property is listed as owner-occupied residential when it is actually used for a business, Higgins said it must be a mistake. He's since contacted the Assessor's Office to determine how much he should be paying in taxes.

It's not a huge amount of money, but here's what we're left wondering: How much credibility does Higgins have on the topic of property taxes when he doesn't even understand the difference between owner-occupied residential property and commercial property?

Incidentally, Higgins won't be subject to any penalty if and when the classification changes. A few years back, the Arizona Legislature passed a tax-reform package that does not penalize property taxpayers if it's discovered that they've been cheating on their taxes--provided they accept the new classification in future years.

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