Or, How the powerful interests failed to bully the legislature into a tax increase
We've been hearing for awhile now that if Republican Governor Brewer didn't get her way - an 18% sales tax increase referendum sent to the ballot by the legislature - then she wouldn't run this next time around in 2010 for governor. Even if she had gotten it rammed through, she would never make it through a Republican primary. Big names like Dean Martin and Vernon Parker have already thrown their names out there, something they never would have done if they didn't have a chance against her. Sources have consistently reported that her campaign consultant, Chuck Coughlin of High Ground, was behind the bizarre GOP insistence on a tax increase, because the money could then be funneled to construction and transportation infrastructure projects to benefit his clients. His clients include AZ Dept. of Transportation, AZ Housing Ass., Maricopa County, and DMB Inc. (frequently in the general construction business for government). Odd, Association of General Contractors is no longer listed on High Ground's site as a client. Wonder if he took it down to hide it because of this post by Sonoran Alliance? Or this one? Coughlin tried to get a sales tax increase on the ballot with Napolitano's backing last year, the TIME initiative, but failed. According to Sonoran Alliance, the sales tax referendum this year was just a sneaky way to get that same sales tax increase for his clients on the ballot.
Coughlin's employee Paul Bentz, of the satire blog Arizona Report, did a lot of the behind the scenes work trolling the blogosphere trying to intimidate bloggers. He commented nonstop on Sonoran Alliance as the fake "Roger," attacking any writers there who criticized the tax increase. He started the website "Fix Arizona" which didn't focus on fixing much of anything except the pockets of High Ground's clients. Even after being outed on Sonoran Alliance, he continued to post under "Roger," claiming to be someone in a different industry in the East Valley - Bentz lives in Goodyear. (this picture of him used to be on the High Ground website up until recently, suddenly it was removed).
Now, Brewer has lost and made a lot of enemies on both the right and the left. A sore loser, she called the Democrats who opposed her tax increase "extremists," and also called some of the most principled Republicans in the legislature "extremists." Stalwart Republican legislators like Pam Gorman, Ron Gould, and Sam Crump held out to the end and refused to vote for the sales tax increase. How is that going to look when they run for political office in the future? "Held out against governor's sales tax referral" vs. "voted for governor's sales tax referral." If you think their position is going to hurt them in future elections, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. If anything, it will help them sail through future Republican primaries.
Other Republican legislators caved one by one, strong-armed by the AZ Republican Party, which commissioned a push-poll to support Brewer's tax increase. Coughlin got one of his employees hired at the State GOP, Colin Shipley. The GOP refused to release the full results of the poll, because even the ginned-up poll wasn't that supportive. A Rasmussen poll released around the same time found that 65% of Arizona voters opposed the sales tax.
Republican legislators tried to work with Brewer, saying they would vote for her sales tax increase referendum if she would agree to a package of tax cuts and tax credits. Brewer wouldn't commit to any of them, and without some kind of guarantee that they couldn't just be rescinded in the future, which happens in politics about half the time, there was no incentive to take that gamble.
Now, the blogs and newspapers are attacking the few principled legislators who held out against the tax increase referendum. It's no surprise the liberal Republic is attacking them. But other conservative bloggers? Whose pockets are they in? We should be supporting conservative principles. Unless the tax cuts and credits were guaranteed for at least the next three years, it was a foolish gamble for Republicans to vote for the tax increase referendum.
BIGGEST TAXPAYER HEROES of 2009