Big business fighting ‘sanctuary’ initiative with hefty cash donations

Tucson Metro Chamber backs PAC, No on Prop 205

A look at campaign finance reports last week revealed big money donations from local and outside interests opposed to the grassroots, citizen-led initiative known as Proposition 205, and colloquially as the ‘Sanctuary City’ initiative, have increased and outpaced those of the initiative’s proponents in recent filings with the city.

Political action committee No on 205 hauled in $50,000 from Arizona Association of Realtors and $20,000 from another PAC called Committee for Economic Prosperity, which is heavily backed by Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce’s contributions of $37,000 to the PAC since May 2019, according to data on the Arizona secretary of state’s See the Money website.

The Southern Arizona Leadership Council donated $10,000, bringing No on 205’s funding haul to $80,000 since the August Primary, according to a report filed with the city.

By contrast, People’s Defense Initiative has only raised $2,450 in cash donations since the primary.

In an email, Tucson Del Sur News contacted Barbi Reuter, Tucson Metro Chamber chair and president of Cushman and Wakefield, a multi-interest real estate firm, and asked if the Chambers’ donations to Committee for Economic Prosperity reflect the interests of the Chambers’ members, but has not received a response.

Tucson Metro Chamber members include media companies such as The Arizona Daily Star, whose editorial board has come out in opposition to Prop 205, Univision Communications, Tucson Local Media, all three local television stations and KXCI 91.3 Community Radio.

Arizonans for Public Safety, a different PAC based out of Phoenix raised $230,000 since September, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city. Fundraising data obtained from See the Money indicate the PAC has actually received $237,250 from donors including Fletcher McCusker, chair of Rio Nuevo, and Jim Click Automotive Group.

Finance reports filed with the city indicate Arizonans for Public Safety expenditures total $158,455 with $101,000 of those dollars spent with Mentzer Media, an out of state media buying firm.

Arizonans for Public Safety chair Robert Ramirez, a Tucson retiree, said in a phone call the PAC is opposed to the measure because their research has shown the city risks losing $110 million in funding which would be ‘devastating’ to local government.

Ramirez said he was not sure if Arizonans for Public Safety would attempt to weigh in on any other issues this election cycle and said the PAC has not, as of yet, talked about supporting any particular candidate for mayor or city council.

Whether or not Tucson risks losing state or federal funding if the initiative passes, is perhaps speculative for both its proponents and opponents.

Some state lawmakers have threatened to trigger a state attorney general investigation under A.R.S. 41-194.01, also known as an SB1487 complaint, which would seek to determine if the initiative conflicts with state law, if it passes.

Tucson challenged the constitutionality of SB1487 complaints at the Arizona Supreme Court in 2017 after the attorney general concluded in 2016 that a Tucson ordinance requiring the destruction of firearms forfeited to local police may violate state law. The city lost.

The court, siding with the state legislature, determined SB1487 complaints and any subsequent investigations did not violate separation of powers doctrine, and that the state law trumped the city ordinance.

However, if Proposition 205 passes and an SB1487 complaint is triggered it may present a contextually different case to the state Supreme Court than the gun destruction case of 2017 because it is a petition initiative, not an ordinance promulgated by the city council and mayor.

If passed by Tucson voters, the attorney general, at the behest of any single legislator, may investigate whether Proposition 205 violates SB1070, a state law passed in 2010 that was pared down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 and continues to govern local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agencies.

The risk of losing federal grant funding is largely tied to Executive Order 13768 promulgated by the current administration in 2017. The order attempted to withhold funding from ‘sanctuary jurisdictions’ but was ruled by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to violate the Separation of Powers Doctrine and infringe upon the Spending Clause which gives only Congress the power to withhold federal monies.

However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Department of Justice’s implementation of a points system tied to grants directed towards the hiring of new officers in a lawsuit brought by the city of Los Angeles and decided this summer.

Another threat to the ‘sanctuary’ initiative was reported last week by Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he will introduce legislation that would make cities liable to victims when local law enforcement “fail[s] to call immigration officials on someone who is a convicted felon, in this country illegally and goes on to commit another felony,” the report said.

Stay tuned for a deeper look at the legal complexities raised by Proposition 205 in our continuing coverage of the contentious initiative.

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